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Wow this blog is hard to write because there are so many things I want to say and just not enough memory in my head to remember to say it all. So I apologize in advance if my thoughts are kind of all over the place, you all will manage. I did and learned so much in the less than the 72 hours I was in Washington D.C. but my story does not start there. It starts about three or four days before my actual boarding of the plane when I was asked to come up with a testimonial about preventative measures the state could have enacted to keep us from going into care and/or decrease our stay in foster care.

Since I spent 15 years in care I wanted to tell my story in a way that would convey what I needed during those years to make my stay in care less traumatic. Well if you are confused right now, welcome to my world just days before my trip to testify in front of the Senate Finance Committee in front of Chairman Baucus, Senator Hatch and Ron Wyden the Oregon Sentaor himself (in which I am still waiting for him to accept my friend request on Facebook)!

No pressure right? lol... Welp, don't want to bore you with the details but just know in those three/four days (which felt like would never end) I received the most emails in those days alone, than in my whole email life (not really but felt like it)! I am not an excellent writer; I actually hate it...with a passion. BUT I didn't want to pass on an opportunity like this.

I don't think Celeste, H.B.I.C. (head BOSS in charge...haha) knows this but I was super siked about being asked to go but as soon as I found out I had to write a testimonial (which felt like a school paper) I almost backed out. I got off the phone and came up with a million excuses to pass on this opportunity, all because of my fear of writing. As you already know, I did not pass on this opportunity and there was only one reason why I did not...well two. The first and most important reason was I didn't want to let you all down.

Obviously people saw something in my story that I did not. They believed that my story would get the big wigs in D.C. to stop for a moment in reconsider the current policies that affect foster youth today and how my story could help change policies to better the lives of foster youth currently in care. That was something I did not realize at first. But as I began to write my story, I kept all of you in mind and that is what got me through those sleepless hours.

I wasn't writing for me but I was writing for my siblings and all my other brothers and sisters in care that had experienced or is currently going through the struggles of not being connected to their siblings and measures that keep us from being like a normal youth. The second reason is not as important but I didn’t want to let Celeste down. That reason isn’t as important because honestly Celeste would have understood and still kept me in high regards but I knew she wanted me to have this opportunity and that she also saw (if not more than others) my potential and the weight of my story.

If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have gone. PERIOD. She helped me so much through her words of encouragement, long nights of editing, revising, phone calls, prep work….you name it, Celeste did it! She was me and JoJo’s (the beautiful and brilliant gal who accompanied me to D.C. and also carried ya’ll in her story to Capitol Hill) rock while we were there. Celeste stayed up with us (even though it was our story to tell) helping us by coaching us, providing suggestions and just basically moral support.

WE wrote our own stories, that was my voice you all were hearing during my testimony but Celeste polished it to make it, me and us…look good! I can’t stress enough the amount of prep that went into this but here is the shortened version: Phone call, we accepted, I contemplated, I gave in, I started writing, I continued writing, more phone calls, sent paper off, got it back, all I saw was read markings, got depressed, ate some ice cream, went back to edit paper, relieved my ice cream, sent off paper, went to work, revised my paper some more at work, Celeste sends it back for more work, go home, guess what…more editing, more red marks, two days passed, what day is it? Who cares!.. more revisions, more editing, airports, more phone calls, anxiety attacks, middle seat on the plane (ugh!), get off plane, going to take a nap…sike!

Meet up with Celeste, more edits, prepare for speech, get into hotel room (which I must say was a very nice hotel), revise speech, go to JoJo’s room practice speech, go to bed, have dreams about my speech, wake up in my sleep reciting my speech…. So yea, ya’ll get the picture! Just know that this was no walk in the park for me, JoJo or Celeste…we paid our dues for that particular and very special day!

And I must say it was so worth it! To be honest, there are people who go take out 80,000 dollar loans to attend Yale, Princeton and Harvard, earn their PhD’s just to try and make it to Capitol Hill and to sit in the rooms that was set-up to accommodate JoJo and I. So I did not once take this opportunity lightly or thought I deserved it. I feel really blessed to have had that experience and so grateful that so many people wanted to hear what I had to say, hear what WE had to say. Here is my little insert about JoJo.

That woman is something else! LOL. She is so amazing, very positive (and has thee most hideous and funniest laugh I have ever heard!), outgoing and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be paired with. She was the ying to my yang! If you read our stories or heard us testify it is very clear that we approached this opportunity very differently. She had an amazing story with so much enthusiasm, emotions and personality intertwined in it. While my story was very “matter-of-fact” and straight to the point, no bull, here it is, wassup…how you on act?! (in my Cherie voice) LOL. In other words, we complimented one another quite well (and it helped to have our own hotel rooms lol).

We played off each other very well and I was so lucky because she was a perfect fit and represented FosterClub and foster youth very well! Well, I said all that to give you some background information and to set-up the scene (another personality difference between JoJo and I…I am very detailed and she is a main-idea kinda girl). Hopefully I painted a picture for you, it might not be a pretty one yet but that is soon coming my bros and sis…this story has an end, a fairy tale end…just not now. I got finals and ya’ll probably do too so I will continue this “ONCE upon of time” story later….until then, just know our voices were heard and the right people were listening. So please stay tuned and you will get to here about my skirt ripping just moments before we testified on Capitol Hill 

Mar 15, 2011 By Isha-Charlie McNeely