As a foster child, I was bounced from home to home from the age of 5 to 8. In one year’s time, I lived in 15 different homes. The only thing I was allowed to keep was one blue shirt … I never got to keep anything else. I never knew where I would lay my head at night and never knew what or when my next meal would be. I went from home to home never feeling safe or sure of whose care I’d be in.
I was abused and scared and all I wanted was to be loved. I had to get counseling until I was 18. When I was 7, a woman came to one of my counseling sessions. She was there evaluating whether or not I’d be a good fit for her. She was looking for a child to love and make a home for. At age 8, this woman saved my life and invited me to live with her.
When I first got to my new mother’s home, I had my own bedroom for the first time ever. Life became my dream come true. I walked in to a beautifully furnished room with matching, butter cream colored furniture, presents on the bed and new clothes hanging in the closet. I was in disbelief. The first thing I asked was “Is this for me? Do I get to keep it?”
One of my mom’s favorite stories to tell was about green olives. From time to time, she would find food she had just bought missing. She realized I would take the food and hide it in my room. She one day asked “Where’s the jar of green olives? I replied “I ate them.” She chuckled and said “They are for you and you can keep them in the refrigerator, they will be there for you when you want them.” Eventually, I realized that there would always be food for me to eat and I would never go to bed hungry again.
December 8 of that year, I was adopted by my new mother, the only mother I’ve ever known. MaryNelle Hartman became one of the first single women in the state of Arizona to be granted an adoption and I became her daughter.
At 26, she saved my life again. I was riding with my mom, to pick up relatives from the airport and had a seizure while waiting for our guests to come out with luggage. Due to my mother’s quick actions,emergency services arrived within 3 minutes, I was rushed to the Good Samaratin Hospital where I woke up to the news I had a brain aneurism. My brain was so swollen the surgery had to be postponed.
The night before my scheduled surgery I was staying at my mom’s house. As we were discussing the surgery, scheduled for the next day, I fell off her bed mid-response and had another seizure. The next thing I knew I was in ICU surrounded by people praying and being told I would probably not make it through the surgery … and to say my goodbyes. Thanks to the love and support of my mother and the expertise of the tremendous neurosurgeon, Dr. Carrie Walters, I am here today to tell my story.
Since then my mother, MaryNelle, passed away. It’s been 9 years since my mother’s passing on May 18, 2003. It was one of the hardest days of my life knowing I had to bury the woman that saved my life…twice…and gave me the unconditional love I so deserved. The loss of my mother was very hard.She saved me from a life that could have taken me in a completely different direction.
In dedication to MaryNelle Hartman and her act of love, I began volunteering on the Supreme Court Foster Care Review Board and Removal Board. All the stories I’ve heard as an adult have sparked my passion to do more. It’s a Hard Knock Life is here to improve awareness and make an impactful difference in the lives of the foster children in Maricopa County, Arizona.
There are currently 13,000 children in foster care in Arizona. I can only wonder how many of those children will be lucky enough to find their forever family. Every child deserves the gift MaryNelle Hartman gave me. Every child deserves to have the feeling of stability, unconditional love and safety.
My mission is to improve awareness regarding the daily lives these innocent children experience and make impactful changes in their foster care experience.
Today, as a mother of two beautiful, healthy, happy daughters, I am grateful. My children Alex and Madison remind me each day what a joy it is to be a mother.