I’m not amazing

[as published in the June 7, 2019, issue of The Journal in Seneca, SC]

If you just heard an awkward tumbling noise, it was probably me tripping as I climbed on my soapbox. I don’t get up here often, so it’s unfamiliar territory.
You see, May is Foster Care Awareness Month and I didn’t say a word about it in my column. But today, even though it’s June, I will. The month may have ended but the need for foster has not.
Even though my license became official in late February, I haven’t said much about foster care in general. Part of that reason is I didn’t feel qualified. I’m so new and there are families who have been doing this for years and would be much better resources for those with questions.
But you know what they don’t have? A weekly column in The Journal where they can write about anything they want.
And I want you to know about fostering. I want you to know you can help without hours of training or opening your home to those in need. I didn’t realize those options existed ahead of really diving into this.
In May, I had 10 kids — aged 18 months to nearly 17 — in my house for a total of nine nights. Most of them were around for 12 hours and spent half their time in my home asleep.
The majority of my placements are “emergencies,” but I’ve also agreed to do respite care. Respite is essentially babysitting for a foster family who needs a break for an anniversary trip or class reunion.
Emergency care is a one-night agreement for a child, or children, to come stay with me while DSS looks for long-term placement options.
I usually get a phone call or text message later in the day when DSS realizes a long-term placement isn’t available that night. If I’m available and have the energy, DSS will drop the kid(s) off at my house and pick them up the next morning.
It almost feels like a lie to say I “fostered” these kids for a night. They walk in the door just before bedtime and I usually have to wake them up to leave in the morning.
Teenage attitudes and toddler meltdowns are now as much a part of my life as county council meetings and watering the garden before work. I cry nearly every time I change the sheets, which is about twice a week, and when I’m told a challenging placement has found a full-time home.
However many tears fall on those sheets is worth knowing a child felt safe and loved enough to snuggle up in that very spot for a good night’s sleep. Whatever fleeting heartache I have in those quiet mornings is nothing compared to what these children, their biological parents and foster parents will feel in the coming weeks and months.
But here’s the thing: I’m not amazing. So many of my friends have told me that as I’ve opened up about bringing these children in my home, but it’s just not true.
I’m completely average. I work at least five days a week, try to cook more meals than I grab from a drive-thru, attempt at least three trips to the gym every week, chase my hobbies, invest in my friendships and am always late to church.
I’m not much different than you, and everyone can do something. You can take a meal, pick up some groceries, volunteer as a guardian ad litem, donate diapers, tackle some yard work for a busy family or show up and support them at court hearings.
It’s as simple as asking yourself, “What would I do for my kids or grandkids?”
Then that’s what you should do.
And with that, I’ll step down from my soapbox. Hopefully I’ll be a little more graceful getting up here next time.

Caitlin Herrington is an award-winning journalist, haphazard adventurer, pseudo-gardener, possible future chicken mom and actual human foster mom. She can be reached at cherrington@upstatetoday.com.

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Painting progress

Mostly sharing this so I remember how ridiculous it is to paint all this in case I ever get the whim to do it again…

Kitchen/dining room are Bay Waves by Valspar — the same color I had in the Woodfield kitchen and I love a little less in this house because it looks more blue than I remember.

HOWEVER … I’m now in the process of painting the living room (and hallway, but I’m not in a rush to knock that out) “Falkland Blue” by Sherwin-Williams.

I took a shortcut and used my sample jar to cut in, not realizing that was a satin paint and I’ll be using eggshell on the walls. So I started rolling just so I felt accomplished.

As of 1:33 a.m. I did indeed feel accomplished.

Olive is basically the reason I have this house. Her human had to work late and asked if I’d be in the area painting…so she came to keep me company. And yes she had a sweater because ya girl refuses to turn the heat past 62.

Welcome to the ‘ship

Homeownership, that is.

Five years to the day I started my first job at The Journal, I closed on this cutie pie house in Pendleton. My sunset view is my new favorite — an added perk I knew nothing about. Such a colorful sunset the end a pretty exciting day :)

The generous genie

Y’all, I love giving presents. Birthdays, Christmas, sursies — if I see something I think a friend, family member or even their dog may like, I buy it.

We stopped doing adult Christmas gifts a few years ago when my older brother and sister started having children and opted to do a “Dirty Santa” exchange with the grown-ups.

I buy things for everybody all year long and stash them away, inevitably forgetting during my Christmas shopping I already bought two puzzles and a dress and a wooden car over the summer. It just means I can donate those to children in need and give even more gifts. It’s a complete win-win for me.

My nieces will be thoroughly spoiled with a new backpack, lunch box, dresses to pass back and forth over the years and a few good books. None of them can read, so I’m safe to reveal my personal favorite gift of all: a unicorn-themed teether for baby K, who just turned 9 months old. My 4-year-old nephew knows his letters, so I ought to be careful revealing the contents of his craft kit.

Some of these were purchased in December. Some, like the plastic foods inside J’s ladybug backpack, were snagged over the summer on clearance. I see things they would love and accidentally buy them.

What can I say? I’m a giver.

So, in the spirit of giving gifts, I wanted to give a few things out here in my column. If I had unlimited funds and a genie hiding in a lamp, I would gladly give the following:

To Norm Cannada, a leash for his phone, glasses and keys so he’d quit forgetting them so often.

To Michelle Cannada, a day-long spa experience to relieve the stress from all the driving she does back and forth to the office when Norm forgets said items.

To the city of Walhalla, an extra Shop-Vac or two so you don’t have to splurge on that fancy water vacuum truck.

To the residents of Westminster and Seneca, rain barrels for collecting extra water like real pioneers when we can’t afford to shower for more than three minutes.

To the parents with Elves on Shelves, I’d give a mystery plague that requires elf quarantine for three days by mandate of Santa himself.

To the city of Westminster, roughly $538,000 along with a police officer or four and a lightning rod — just in case.

To county council, an emerald city of industry to go at the end of that yellow brick road you’re paving at the Golden Corner Commerce Park.

To online commenters, the gift of paper, pen and stamps so y’all can chat privately amongst yourselves instead of bickering over politics on our website.

To Hobby Lobby, plentiful and willing workers to open the store in Seneca as early as possible.

To Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers, another victory over Alabama — though I doubt we need a genie for that.

To all The Journal’s readers, a wonderful, safe, warm and maybe slightly snowy Christmas.

Caitlin Herrington is sucker for Hallmark Christmas movies and will never not cry during said films. She can be reached at cherrington@upstatetoday.com.

Kitchen sink Christmas trees

As much as I hate anything associated with washing dishes, I think the best way to describe my Christmas tree is “kitchen sink chic.”

Decorating the tree is my favorite part of adorning the house for Christmas — isn’t it everyone’s? Growing up, we would make ornaments with cross-stitched cardinals, cinnamon shapes made with cookie cutters or craft something with dog treats or beads.

Eventually, Momma bought another tree and segregation happened. All the “kid ornaments” that we made at home or brought back from school were separated from the “nice ornaments” that all matched and didn’t have scratched paint or large chunks missing. It was a little hurtful that our decades of hard work were banished to a secondary location while Mom’s new tree had shiny ribbons and color-coordinated themes.

And then it happened.

She gifted me the ornaments I had so lovingly made for her myself — even those I was too young to make and had assistance from my preschool teacher.

The thumbprint mouse in his little hand-painted wreath from ’95, the construction paper star-shaped Santa with cotton beard from ’96, the beaded candy canes and the Rudolph made from pipe cleaners and a Milkbone dog biscuit were all delicately placed into my ornament box to be cherished like the treasures we all know they are.

Except Santa. He got eaten by a foster puppy last year and is now being cherished in the trash somewhere.

The old ornaments are a perfect blend with my new ones, and I will carry on my kitchen sink tree décor until the tree falls over. I have a habit of buying ornaments out of season because I love the sentimentality that comes along with them upon display.

There’s the old-timey camera ornament I bought on a trip to Biltmore with Christina Cleveland back when we both worked at The Journal (the first time). We went in spring, but I’ve always wanted to go see the Vanderbilt-era Christmas décor — this felt like a happy medium. Every time I see that shiny little camera, I’m taken back to our little road trip and the awe that struck me from the moment I stepped in front of the Biltmore House.

Another favorite is a tiny cast-iron skillet with sausage and fried eggs that came from Gatlinburg. Not only is it a combination of my favorite things — camping, Christmas and breakfast — I purchased it the week my brother called to tell me he was getting married. I vividly remember mining for gems when I felt my back pocket buzzing with his call.

My hands were wet and a little sandy, so my then-boyfriend pulled it out of my pocket and held it up to my ear. It was for the best, because I may have dropped the phone if I’d been responsible for holding it.

I hope it’s not weird I associate that ornament with my brother getting married more so than my ex’s family, with whom I was vacationing at the time.

I also have two giant white glass ornaments — rare for someone who has a curious cat — with the student publications logo from my college years. My last semester of college, I was the managing editor of The Herald. That semester brought me one of my best friends and fellow newspaper nerd, then-editor Tessa. I didn’t much like her prior to being handpicked as her managing editor, but nearly five years later we still text every day.

Then there’s the beautiful light blue and green beaded garland that reminds me of springtime and icicles that I purchased on Small Business Saturday on Ram Cat Alley my first Thanksgiving in Seneca — my first holiday away from home. There’s also the tiny stocking garland I bought at a family Christmas dinner in 2015. Technically I was only buying it for my sister, but I couldn’t resist the little curly-toed felt cuteness and wound up with two strands of my own.

So you can keep your green and red aesthetics and glittery sticks of gold beside perfectly placed ornaments, because my weird little mismatched ornaments all have a perfect place in my heart. Even trash Santa — may he rest in pieces.

Sweet, Southern Christmas memories

[This originally appeared in “Home for the Holidays,” a special section of The Journal, a print publication in Seneca, S.C.]

 

Looking back at the Christmases of my youth, I’m starting to realize my family may be a little bit redneck.

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to come to this conclusion, but in writing this column I’ve all of a sudden become vastly aware that bleeding out a deer and sledding downhill in the top of a wheelbarrow may not be normal Christmastime practices for everyone. Did anyone else have to dodge barbed-wire fencing while sliding in the snow?

column_Cat CAH pic 1

I’m much better at remembering Christmastime in the last decade or so, but memories from 1990-2003 are probably my favorite, as foggy as they may be.

My mom’s family rotated who hosted Christmas so every third year we went to Mississippi. Those were the years we’d cram 40 people — all of whom I’m allegedly related to — into a tiny cabin and eat and try not to be intimidated by the number of dead animals hanging on the wall. To be fair, the Santa hats and bows made them much less threatening to a young girl who didn’t grow up hunting. What was still fairly disconcerting was the deer that was being gutted outside.

In a typical Hallmark movie, everyone would stay inside because there was snow falling and it was chilly outside so we’d huddle around a fire. Y’all this was Mississippi and it was hot with 40 people in a tiny cabin so we were known to walk around outside in our short-sleeve shirts. You never forget your first deer gutting. At least the colors were appropriate for the holiday as the red splashed down onto the still-green grass.

That has to earn us at least 10 redneck points.

My mom’s sister lived on a farm in Western Kentucky. We shucked corn in the summer and went sledding behind four-wheelers in the winter. I feel certain child welfare would be called if we did the same thing today — yet I secretly hope my second cousins enjoy the same privileges this winter.

Do you need a license to drive a four-wheeler? How fast do those things go? 10-year-old me was positive it was 60 miles per hour and had the frostbite on my nose to prove it. Current me knows that’s not possible, especially when it was hardly freezing outside, but I refuse to let it taint the memories with my cousins. We were flying on those inner tubes and you can never convince me differently.

As fun and mentally scarring as those memories are, I don’t think anything will ever top wintertime sledding at the Hayes’ farm.

Their humble abode sits atop the steepest, longest, most daunting hill in all of middle Tennessee. I know you think I’m exaggerating but I would never in a million years use hyperbole to describe my childhood.

I think it was an unwritten rule: If it snowed, the entire congregation was invited to Mr. Mark and Mrs. Cindy’s house on the hill to enjoy some good, clean family fun of sledding to our potential deaths.

column_Cat CAH pic 2

To this day I’m not sure if any of the families who attended owned real sleds. It doesn’t snow much in southern Tennessee, so why would we? But what we did have were pool floats, trashcan lids and wheelbarrows. And buddy, we would fly down those hills dodging hidden cow patties, each other, small boulders, the creekbed at the bottom and bits of barbed wire as we went. I have a very vivid memory of my sister and the preacher’s daughter throwing themselves off a “sled” to avoid such fencing. I wasn’t sure if they’d make it, but I reckon the parents standing at the top were saying some special prayers because they are alive and well today.

These memories seem even sweeter now that I have nieces and a nephew whom I’ll get to watch experience the same things. The youngest will be 8-months-old at Christmas, which is probably the perfect time for a redneck family like mine to take her sledding.

Anybody have any ideas on how to fit a wheelbarrow in a sedan?

Caitlin Herrington was born in Tennessee and raised in Kentucky. She would, in fact, use hyperbole to describe her childhood. You can reach her at cherrington@upstatetoday.com.

New York, New York

Because I super suck at blogging. 

   
    
    
    
    
 FFriday was lunch with Norm and his wife at Billy’s pizza, meeting up with Tessa and Demetrius and the most expensive Mexican restaurant outing OF MY LIFE. Tessa and I played an escape game in Chinatown and got a liiiittle bit lost before deciding to go up the Empire State Building. I didn’t know cold until I went on the windy side of that observation deck, but I think I could have stared at those lights all night if Tessa hadn’t asked to go in. 

Saturday morning we played another escape game, grabbed brunch at a fancy crepe place/witnessed a 7-year-old have a complete meltdown and walked around Central Park and The Met before riding the Staten Island Ferry. We ate at some hipster meatball restaurant — that’s right, an entire restaurant dedicated to balls of meat — preceded by macaroons from another hipster bakery. 

Macaroons were not exactly what I expected in a bad way, and the same for the meat balls (I had veggie meatballs with a pesto sauce because ain’t no restaurant name gonna tell me what to order) but in a great way. Then we went home and slept because we walked NINE MILES. 

We hit the Grattitude Cafe in Brooklyn on Sunday morning and walked around Prospect Park just long enough to climb a tree (me), juggle snowballs (Demetrius) and be told the skating rink was too full for us to get in after waiting 30 minutes. 

So then we went and got ice cream instead. Basically the same thing, right?

D and I sent Tessa packing, hit the grocery store long enough to give me sticker shock and then I had to grab the next train to Baltimore. 

New York is overwhelming in every sense of the word to every sense in the body, but it was such a fun weekend. There’s so much to see and do that there’s no way we could cover it all, but I still feel like we stayed busy. 

But boy, was I glad to see the stars shining over my yard when I got out of the car Monday night. The city lights are nice, but they’ll never come close to the way the stars shine at home.