Oh heyyyyy! And we're back highlighting some pretty amazing women in 2018. I'm excited to introduce you to my friend Leslie. She is Seattle cool. Like really. She makes her own bitters for handcrafted cocktails, composts, lived all over the world and is so resourceful.
True story, one time my twinadoes were visiting her home and were 100% entertained by a box of recycled materials she saved for kiddos to do art projects with. Like what? Move over hipsters because she is cooler than you. (This should further affirm that she is going to be the best foster mom anyone can ask for - because for the life of me I cannot entertain my kiddos but she can.)
Leslie is smart, strong and loves her people. She shows up, gives gives gives and is the best cheerleader for her friends. We also love it when she offers to bring drinks to the party because they are fancy and way more classy than my selection of Miller Highlife. So please, meet Leslie and be inspired by her wisdom and perspective on life.
Name: Leslie Stroud-Romero
Hometown: Gig Harbor, Washington
Occupation: Nonprofit management
You've lived all over the world, how has that shaped who you are as a person? I've been finding it hard to identify how getting older and living overseas have shaped me separately. I've become more cynical, but I've also become more understanding, more resourceful, and my network of friends spans across the globe. I know much more about what I want, what I need, and what is a good fit for me. I've lived a total of four years of my life in rural villages in fairly basic conditions, but when I moved to Kampala after village life in Uganda, I said I would go back to the US if we didn't get a car with air conditioning. I know when I can handle super flexible, go-with-the-flow adventures, and I know when I need to feed my soul with things that make me feel like me, whether that's pulling on a sweater and settling in with a good book and cup of coffee or making sure I don't get too hot, hungry, or tired. Along this journey, I've learned to embrace conflicting parts of myself, like being both an adventurer (albeit a slightly anxious one) and a homebody, and balance my prepare-to-the-max personality with learning to be more relaxed -- a lesson that you can't help but learn when you live in countries where nothing goes to plan. [Editor's Note: Dang girl, there are some great life lessons in here. This is me taking notes.]
What led you to start the process for fostering? For my senior project in high school I job shadowed a social worker who worked with foster families, and I spent my first 2+ years of college as a social work major. Then I switched majors, I moved to Malawi, and learned that while I loved new experiences and wouldn't trade any of my adventures biking to rural villages to teach women about nutrition or walking to a health outreach, I found it more enjoyable to do the kind of work that is behind a desk, and social work drifted off my radar. I met my husband Aaron when we were both in Peace Corps in Malawi, so we had a natural counter-cultural streak in common, and for a long time we weren't sure we wanted kids. I've never had that maternal clock telling me it was time to birth kids, but eventually I did start to think about what being a parent would be like. Though I never became a social worker (at least not yet) I thought I might still like to be a foster parent, and eventually we settled on foster parenting as our first choice as a way to raise kids. [Editor's Note: Thank you for speaking your truth! I love it. As someone who had the same questions about whether or not motherhood was for me, I think this kind of dialogue and self-reflection is important and encouraging for others who haven't yet vocalized these same thoughts.]
There are so many unknowns with what will happen next, can you describe what it is like and what you are learning from that process? I really truly thought that I would be a pro at dealing with all the unknowns and bureaucracy of going through the foster process because I had lived with uncertainty for a while. In Uganda, I felt like I needed a change before Aaron did -- and while I didn't know whether that was a new job or a new country, I was in a waiting period. Then we moved to Charleston after a lot of waiting and deliberation, and I had to try and find a job in a market that was so different from our previous home base of Seattle, and find something that would accommodate my desire to work part-time while foster parenting, and so there was more uncertainty and more waiting. Plus, along with all that, I had spent 26 long months fighting with Ugandan bureaucracy about a work permit, so I was ready to handle any waiting, uncertainty, and unhelpful civil servants I encountered. Of course, that hasn't been the case at all and I'm just as bad at waiting as I've always been. We originally applied through the adoption office because we're open to foster-adoption, but then we learned that in South Carolina that doesn't license you to be a foster parent, so our process has been longer and more drawn out than some. It's also frustrating to read that there are 1300 fewer beds than foster kids in South Carolina, and yet I feel like the powers that be are just taking their sweet time to fill up our two little beds. Lately I've been ranting that I've learned all the lessons so what is the point of all this frustration and waiting? I'm clearly too much in the thick of it to be learning anything right now, so I'm just learning to trust that it will all work out. [Editor's Note: To read more on Leslie's adventures in Uganda, visit her blog.]
What is the thing that most excites you about motherhood? (And what is the thing that scares you the most?) I spent years not really wanting to be a mother. I was afraid I'd lose some of my identity, I always used to get bored when I babysat, and I was afraid that having kids would preclude us from ever moving overseas again. But I kept having these daydreams of having a big group of grown-up kids come home for Thanksgiving. Not just a huge group of Thanksgiving guests -- I'm not much for small talk or strangers in general -- but people I knew and loved and welcomed home every year. That's what won me over to deciding to parent, and foster parent specifically: I wanted to build a safe community for kids who needed people to believe in them and build life-long connections to kids who might always need a little more help learning how to live life, but who could break patterns and institutions that held their families back, all while coming back for Thanksgiving dinner in a big Christmas-movie-family-reunion kind of way. I guess what I mean is that I'm excited to provide new experiences for kiddos, I'm excited to see them learn how to interact with and change the world, and I'm excited to watch them grow and support them to live their authentic lives for as long as they're with us. What am I scared about? See above: losing my identity, getting bored and stir-crazy, and limiting our options to move overseas again. Oh, and the fact that we're just going to have kids dropped off without any kind of manual or guide on how the heck to raise children. [Editor's Note: You got this. Thankfully there is no manual, it's just survival and that's why God turned water into wine.]
Name your favorite thing to eat around the holidays. I love having hot chocolate (with peppermint schnapps) while decorating the house, and I really appreciate an assortment of Christmas cookies to slowly make my way through during the month. [Editor's Note: Leslie is an expert drink maker (is that a thing? It should be.) I for one would like to try hot chocolate with schnapps!]