New Letter From Lilly

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Apr 272018

letter-from-LillyA letter came yesterday. 🙂 Lilly usually sees me every week, but we still exchange notes by mail.

This one says:

hey mommy was up with you this cold day?

I miss you alot.

my heart is Broking Becuuse I am not with you

you are my Life my world

you are aveything to me.

Fly Little Brid Fly

Let you win Fly.

You are the Best mom.

(Lilly’s notes convey what’s in her heart in a beautiful way.)

She’s had quite an eventful year. That in itself could be a book, but I’m not going there, lol! I think I’m going to vent about “The System” soon, though. It has failed Lilly miserably. My struggle is in keeping her protected and out of view when I talk about what goes on with a daughter like Lilly. The story needs told, and at the same time her privacy needs protected.

I wonder why we have nobody high up in government with a kid like Lilly. If there was someone like that, there would be change. Having a kid like Lilly, though, is enough to consume your life and render a person unable to think about a life in government. In other words, if you had a child like Lilly, you would not be able to seek an office. The police in your drive every month would result in the news outlets decaring you a bad parent and unfit for office. Scandalous!

-Nealie 😯


Apr 202018

Chasing Lilly

Chapter One

In mid-March the phone rang and it was Doris Champion, who along with her husband, John, headed The Center for Helping Children, a nearby Peoria foster care agency. She said they were trying to find a place for a “very disruptive” six-year-old girl to stay for the upcoming weekend.

As relatively new foster parents, we said yes immediately. A couple days passed and we heard nothing from her about the little girl. I assumed they found another home, but Doris sounded desperate when we talked, so the possibility of that happening didn’t seem likely.

Doris called again three days later. “Would you be available first thing in the morning to meet with me and this little girl’s therapist?”

Somewhat startled, I asked, “She has a therapist? At six years old?”

“Yes. We’ll need a home for her for about fourteen days. That’s the estimated time frame for a bed to open in a residential institution near Chicago.”

“OK, we can be there in the morning. What time and where?”

“Oh, good. Nine o’clock at the Child and Adolescent Services (C&A) Building on Fourth Street. I’ll wait for you in the lobby.”

My husband, Bruce, and I wanted a little foster girl, and it looked like it was going to happen. Before she got off the phone with me though, I just had to know the name of the institution-bound young girl.

“What’s her name?”


I asked, “And her last name?”

“Angel. Lilly Angel.”

Something about her name caused goose bumps to rise.


Sometimes it’s better not to know what’s coming. There are easier ways to ruin your social life than foster parenting, but none are quite so satisfying. Before Lilly entered our lives, I was at home with my kids for years, and got it in my head that I wanted to foster a little girl. My parents fostered for a while when their nest was empty, and I noted with interest that foster parents can change lives for the better.

Before Lilly Angel came, Bruce said that as long as our daughters didn’t object, he had no problem with fostering. Torie and Joy were fifteen and eighteen respectively and always on the go. Heck, they didn’t care. They tell me now that they were all for it because they hoped our attention radar would be on someone other than them. Their theory proved correct, because who cares about a “C” when you have rows of teeth marks on your arm?

So we checked out different foster agencies to find one that was a good fit for us, because there were several to choose from, and we spoke to a few people who had gone before us. That’s how we’d settled on The Center for Helping Children (CHC). They were the first choice because they had an excellent reputation under the management of John and Doris Champion, and it was in our town of Peoria, Illinois. We began the necessary paper work, followed by twelve weeks of training classes every Tuesday. All of this needed to take place before we would be the foster parents who ended up taking on Lilly Angel.

Some folks we knew were curious as to why we wanted to embark on this new endeavor, especially when our girls were almost grown. Others wanted to know for their own personal information, as they, too, had considered fostering but had never followed through.

“Watch that you don’t get attached.” We heard that more than once.

One acquaintance looked steadily at me and said, “I heard about a foster child who poisoned her foster parents. Be careful.”

Wow, I really needed to hear that.


Bruce and I looked forward to our Tuesday class because Tana was an awesome trainer. She was a tall, stately African American woman who had been in the trenches. She regularly challenged our thinking and one night in particular asked our class, “What determines a person’s culture?”

There were eighteen in the class and hands began going up. The answers were all similar: “your race” and “ethnic background” seemed to be the general consensus.

Tana silently looked over her class before responding. “Wrong,” she said. “Your culture is how you were raised. I was a Black girl, raised around Whites. My culture was White. Culture is not defined by your skin color.”

I can’t say that I didn’t know that was possible, but when I heard it put that way, I began to see people differently. Thank you, Tana, for teaching me something.

Tana’s dark eyes were slightly sad but gentle, and she knew well the subjects she taught from working at The Center for Helping Children (CHC). She saw firsthand the abandoned children, the abused children, and the kids whose lives were shattered because of parents’ addictions or prostitution. Once those kids landed in “the system,” agencies like CHC would take them into their foster homes as beds became available.

There were some people in our class who were pretty creepy looking, with dirty hair and nails, or scowls and hard stares coming from their faces. I wouldn’t have wanted to visit their home much less sleep in their bed. There were also those who acted bored and didn’t participate. As the weeks went on more and more chairs were empty as people dropped out.

I was often relieved to see a particular chair vacant because I would have felt sorry for their future foster child. I had to keep reminding myself that everyone would get a background check, reference check, and be finger-printed. The process also included a home inspection, fire inspection, and CPR certification. That part was easy because of my medical background as an X-ray technologist, and Bruce’s years as a police officer. One day the mail brought us a paper certificate stating: State of Illinois, Department of Job and Family Services Treatment Foster Home, Bruce and Nealie Rose, 1408 Lawndale, Peoria, Illinois 61604.

We were official. When I thought about being a foster parent I felt strongly that John and Doris Champion and all their staff would be there for us when we needed them. It’s good they didn’t know then just how much we’d need them.


When we arrived at the C & A Building the morning after the call from Doris, she was standing in the lobby wearing a red winter parka. She had a brown purse on her arm and a folder clutched to her chest. She gave us a hopeful smile and a quiet “hello” and led the way.

I really liked her. She wasn’t gushy or loud, but radiated a determined optimism without saying anything more. I felt a kindred spirit because I, too, am a quiet optimist.

We eventually came to a tiny office with an open door. Therapist Kathi Beadle got up from a cluttered desk and greeted us with handshakes. She was about thirty five and thin with an earthy-artsy look to her. The office was so small that after we all sat down we were almost knee-to-knee. Looking at each other I think that all four of us somehow knew that it was a very important meeting.

Thinking back to that day I can still feel the hope and concern for the little girl, Lilly Angel, coming from those two women. (And looking back, had we changed our minds, how would her life have been different?) They hardly knew where to start, and as Bruce and I sat and listened, we soon found out why.

Lilly had lived at another CHC foster home for four weeks. As we spoke, she was in the Psychiatric Ward at Columbia Children’s Hospital for the second time in two weeks. Apparently she tried to kill the foster parents’ three small dogs by choking them. They were rescued and she was admitted.

After discharge she was returned to the foster home, but nothing improved. Lilly broke the dining room chairs (How does a little girl do that?) and tried to get a car to run over her by lying down in the street. She twice wielded a knife in a threatening manner at the foster mother and threatened to burn their house down as well.

I listened and thought how nice it was of those two women to take the time to really inform us when it was only going to be for fourteen days.

Doris shocked me when she said, “It would be great if it worked out to have Lilly staying at your house, because then maybe she’d be able to live with you permanently.”

Bruce and I looked at each other and he said, “We want to help her. We’ll take her for the fourteen days until her name comes up on the waiting list. For any time longer than that we would need to have a family meeting to see if everyone is in agreement with it.”

We were both feeling that we should proceed cautiously because how would taking the girl into our home affect the safety of our family members and two cats? I silently wondered if Lilly really was as dangerous as we were hearing.

Kathi asked if we had any pets. We knew where that was going. Bruce told her we had two cats, Baler and Peek. He also said we could put them on another floor of our home to keep them safe.

Honestly, as we left our heads were spinning. But we knew we could do anything for fourteen days. Couldn’t we?






Apr 062018

Hi Readers,

We see Lilly weekly, talk to her daily, and take aspirin in between. Just joking -life isn’t that bad, but it is more than interesting!

Lilly is our daughter -a heart adoption, and we love her so much. Eighteen years and counting.

Good things are happening, and some changes are coming to the blog.

It will be biweekly, with one week devoted to talking about all things Lilly. Two weeks later I’ll post a partial chapter from Chasing Lilly so that new readers to the site can get to know her. 🙂

My focus now is the Audibles book being completed, as well as you connecting with Lilly as much as possible. So many people can learn from her.



Mar 302018

Lilly called me the other day and she was yelling so loud that Bruce could overhear her say, “I didn’t make my level, so I don’t care anymore. I’m gonna make life hell for staff, hell for the doctor, -everyone! I don’t care if I go back to jail. I want to go to jail, because it’s better than this place!” (Not true!)

After the call, which ended as soon as Lilly made her announcements, Bruce said, “She’s driving the Bitter Bus again.”

I’d never heard that term before. He said a former employee said that when someone was angry or on the rampage about a supposed unfairness. The guy would say, “So and So is driving the Bitter Bus. Anyone else jumping on board?”

If that’s the case, Lilly has been on and off that bus almost weekly her whole life. I was reading Chasing Lilly today, and what she told me on the phone is so similar to things she’s always said. (I’m reading Chasing Lilly because it’s a great book, lol!)

I’m telling you this, wondering if we could use the mental picture of a Bitter Bus to engage Lilly, and help her grow some more by seeing what she’s doing. When she boards that bus she misses out on enjoying life. Every now and then we have a breakthrough. Who knows? Maybe it will be that bus!

And if YOU are driving the Bitter Bus, stop and get off, because it literally takes you nowhere.

Easter Blessings,