Certain things stand out to me when I think about my childhood. I remember drugs being in my parents’ home. I remember missing a lot of school. My family seemed to be in court a lot. I didn’t really see my dad much. I remember a phone call my mom had one day. At the time, I wasn’t sure who she was talking to or who she was talking about, but I remember her saying, “I can’t deal with them anymore.” It wasn’t long before my brother and I were taken to an extended family member, and we never lived with our parents again.
This path eventually brought me to Big Oak Ranch.
During my first week at the Ranch, I met with Mr. John and Mrs. Mary. At first, I thought Mr. John was scary, but I soon realized he was just really tall and had a deep voice. He told me the Four Promises, and I still remember them to this day. I also remember thinking, “That is what everybody says.” But the longer I was there, I realized these people really stick with and keep those Four Promises.
I saw something different in my houseparents. They didn’t fight like the other adults in my life. Mom would get us all together in a circle and pray with us. They made us have study time and kept up with our grades. I got good grades at Westbrook, and I had never done that before. We had fun family outings and would go hiking and swimming at the lake. We played games and worked at the barn. All of these times together were so much fun!
But I had a bad attitude. At the time, at that younger age, I couldn’t see the good. This affected my time at the Ranch, and looking back I regret that so much. When I lived at the Ranch, I thought they were just there to do whatever children needed for that particular day and time. After I left, I didn’t think anyone at Big Oak still cared about me.
In 2019, I married my best friend, Casey. We have two wonderful boys – Cooper and Bryce. We love to camp just like my Ranch family used to do. We take the boys on trips, ride our razor and play at the park. Bryce already likes to help his daddy fix things. He watches Casey hunt and follows him around. He is Casey’s little shadow, and I am sure Cooper will be the same way.
Five years ago, I was able to reconnect with my houseparents, and their actions showed that they did still love and care about me. Now my husband and I love to visit our family at the Ranch. It’s always so much fun, and we laugh and joke a lot.
My houseparents are “Mom” and “Dad.” They are Bryce and Cooper’s grandparents. They text me, asking about the boys and how our week is going and continue to be a part of our lives. We spend holidays with them, and their door is always open for me and my family.
Everybody who serves at Big Oak is making a difference and helping change children’s lives, even when they are hard to deal with like I was. I see younger girls, living with my houseparents, and it makes me happy. They are my house sisters, and I know they are safe, they are getting what they need, and they are loved – just like me!