I’d like to start off today by just saying thank you to those of you who tune into the podcast or read these show notes each week. If you are new here, today I am not going to be talking about Pinterest, but diving into some of my personal life. If you’re not quite ready for that, go back and check out episode 100 of the podcast. You’ll find the top ten Simple Pin podcast episodes there and that should keep you occupied for a while.
Note –> If you’re moved to donate to children in foster care, Simple Pin is hosting a campaign with Together We Rise to raise $10,000. Consider giving here. The campaign ends December 3, 2019
You may have listened to episode 27, The Simple Pin Story, which talks all about how I got started and episode 62, where I talk about building a team. If you haven’t, those are two good ones to listen to that will help you understand a little more about Simple Pin and who I am as a business owner.
For this episode, I’m going to talk about something really personal: what’s been happening behind the scenes while SPM has grown tremendously. At times it’s felt as if SPM had a life of its own to help sustain our family during what have been some of the saddest times in our life. I’ve hinted at it a few times in our newsletter, but today I want to share the whole story with you. (Because this is public, I’m not going to use the little girl’s name who this really involves, but will just refer to her as ‘Baby Girl’).
The Start of Simple Pin and Life Transitions
I first had the idea of starting Simple Pin in 2014. When I talk about the business and how it has grown, I usually reference two events:
- my daughter being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes about nine months after starting Simple Pin
- (about four months later) when we decided to grow Simple Pin into a full-fledged company and not just a side hustle.
That defines 2014 but it doesn’t share what happened next.
In May of 2015, I had 8 part-time team members. We had finally adjusted to life with a diabetic and we were doing well. We were about to make yet another change and switch my daughter to an insulin pump. If you know me in real life, you know that the way to throw a wrench into my life is to switch up what’s normal for me. I’m not fond of transition. We were able to make the transition to the pump smoothly, thanks to the amazing people that we know in the diabetic community.
Our Fostering Story
Finding Out About Baby Girl
A few weeks later, we were at a friend’s house, discussing transitions in life. They knew all about change because they had recently started fostering two children. I knew that fostering wasn’t easy. Having kids enter your family can be messy – it’s tough, heart-work, and every day can feel like swimming upstream. All of a sudden, my struggles with change in my daughter’s diabetes seemed petty. This family was doing deep community work.
In the middle of the conversation, one of the foster children mentioned to me that their mom was pregnant with baby #8. These kids had come from a pretty horrible situation and I just remember thinking,
Could there be any worse situation to bring a child into this world?
As I left that day and was driving home, I heard a voice. For me, as a part of the Christian community, that voice is always the Lord. And the voice clearly said,
You should foster that baby.
I can remember the exact spot I was at when I heard that and my response was, “Nope! I am a foster parent cheerleader. We have too much going on. I can’t take on one more thing.” I drove away from the thought and pretended it never happened.
Fast forward to July when the sweet Baby Girl was born. Our friends told us all about it and they said that the state had actually allowed the mom to keep the baby. My heart broke into a thousand pieces. I realized I was so wrong to say no to the voice. I cried, which is something I don’t do often. I was so remorseful.
I went home and told my husband, Dave, everything, from hearing the voice til now and we knew what we had to do. So we talked to our kids about fostering and not only were they totally on board, but they said, “We want to be the ‘snuggle family.'” We took a deep breath and said, “How in the world are we going to do this?’
The Next Step
We enrolled in foster parent classes, which are really long, and also we put a note in for the caseworker our friends used, just to let her know that if for any reason the state decided to take Baby Girl from her mom, we would be ready and willing to take her into our home. We held steady from July until November 21st. I was at a friend’s house when Dave called me to say that the state had taken baby girl from her mom and they would be bringing her to our house.
Getting these types of phone calls is amazing, terrifying, confusing and overwhelming all in the same 60 seconds. A zillion questions go through your head, and I was reminded that since my youngest child was 6, I had nothing in the house for a baby. Our community rallied around us and we were showered with a diaper bag, clothes, diapers, bottles, everything we could possibly need. And the next day, she arrived wearing the giant pajamas that DHS had given her, along with the biggest smile. The kids were overjoyed.
Working With Baby Girl
Dave and I had extensive conversations about childcare and how we would make it work with a baby in the house. Our vision has always been for my work to release Dave to pursue what he loves, which is preaching at a small church about two hours south of where we live. That requires time for him to prepare but my business needs the most attention. We worked out a schedule so that we could each have time to focus on our work.
There is a ton of unknowns when working with foster children. We had no idea how long Baby Girl would be living with us. We were living week to week, month to month, court case to court case. We visited my parents for Thanksgiving and were hit with a ton of questions — “what will you do when she has to leave? How will you give her back? What’s the situation with her mom? You’re so amazing. I could never have done this.”
Let’s set the record straight here: I’m not amazing. I was simply willing to say yes. I knew every last bit of this fostering thing was going to be far from easy but I am an emotionally grounded adult who has an amazing support system of people that are willing to help me through the hard things.
On the business side of things, I was trying to grow the business. I had just promoted someone on my team to an assistant while everyone else was still an account specialist. I worked during nap time and evenings, but it wasn’t consistent at all. We did finally find a groove towards the end of March after having Baby Girl with us for about four months.
At this point, Baby Girl started visiting one day with mom and one day with dad. This forced us to come face-to-face with those first pangs of loss. We were not sure if Baby Girl would go back to mom or what would end up happening. It wasn’t easy and our kids knew that even though we didn’t know timelines, we would keep loving her like she was our own.
Baby Girl stayed with us for the next year, through the ups and downs of court cases. During this time, I continued to build up my SPM team and I also started a podcast. I built a leadership team that consisted of people that could “be me” when I wasn’t available. I believe this was perfectly designed to prepare me for what was to come.
This brings us to April of 2017. Baby Girl had been with us for 15 months. We had been in a holding pattern with the court and each one kept telling us, “Let’s wait 3 months and review”. Terminating a parent’s rights is a big deal and the state’s goal is always reunification.
But sometimes, it isn’t in the child’s best interest to be reunited with a parent. At that point, either the child will move in with relatives, (which is what had happened with Baby Girl’s siblings) or the foster parents can choose to adopt the child. Our caseworker and CASA (a volunteer, court-appointed advocate for the child) asked if we would be willing to adopt. Our answer was, “Of course.”
I was speaking at SNAP in Salt Lake City when I looked down to a text from Dave that said, “DHS just called and they are moving to in-home visits with dad”. My heart sank. I was about to speak in 15 minutes and my whole body, mind, and soul were completely spinning. Baby Girl’s dad had been the last possible option when we thought about losing her. I knew that this text was a signal that he would soon have custody. It felt like the floor had dropped out from under me. I made it through the next two days of speaking and then finally, I was on a plane headed home. I wrote the word “faith” on a napkin. Faith was my word for that year and it was about to come full circle.
I got home and we gave our kids a very small amount of information. Then we all just prayed about whatever would come next. I informed my SPM team about what was happening and they rallied behind me and carried SPM for me as if it were their own business. We had to have faith and just put one foot in front of the other.
The Next Big Hurdle
We went to court a few weeks later. We were informed by our CASA that the state didn’t have enough of a case to keep Baby Girl with us. She would be moving home. The judge really appreciated us, though, and told Baby Girl’s father:
You need to listen to these foster parents. She’s spent the majority of her life with them. You learn from them, respect them, and respect her connection to them.
It was incredible.
We had to explain to our kids that this sweet little girl who had been in their home for almost two years would be leaving. They were crushed and we had to walk through this grieving process with them. I told my team as well and we came up with a plan for how it would look during the transition and the day she left.
Our next big hurdle was that we had to meet with Baby Girl’s dad, his lawyers, his parents, and everyone involved to discuss what transition would look like. My husband looked at the dad through tears and said: “We want you to be successful and we will do whatever it takes to help with that. We love Baby Girl as our own but we know that she is yours. We want you to be a good dad.”
There was not a dry eye in the room that day.
Even at 2 years old, Baby Girl knew that something was up. She was very out of sorts, as were our kids.
Transitioning Baby Girl
I had agreed to speak at the TPT conference in L.A. that summer. We decided it would be best for us to transition Baby Girl to her dad and then for our entire family to immediately get on a plane. We set the date to move her home and had a great party to celebrate her upcoming birthday a few days before.
We met her dad at a local park, took one last family picture, and then handed her over. We stood in the parking lot and prayed and cried. We drove to the airport in silence and flew to L.A.
For a full week, I didn’t answer one email or message, all thanks to the preparation that my team and I had put in place over the last 6 months. While we were gone, a friend went to our house and cleared out all Baby Girl’s things so we wouldn’t have to go home to them.
Everything was packed up and in the garage when we arrived home. We found an amazing counselor that specializes in foster family transitions and booked our first appointment. She’s been an incredible resource ever since.
The Past Year
Over this past year, I’ve dealt with heavy grief while building my business. Simple Pin still continues to grow. My team and business mean so much to me. That’s the behind the business that not a lot of people have seen. My team has carried me through this in a way that I can’t even replicate. It’s made us such a strong, cohesive team. They allow me to be a big dreamer and focus on what’s next.
Dad has allowed us contact with Baby Girl which is both amazing and tough. We all struggle with it, even her. That requires me to really be there for her, as the mama in her life. She’s transitioned to calling us Kate and Dave, or sometimes Mama Kate and Daddy Dave. We feel so blessed to be able to continue to be in her life.
This is why you hear me teach about Pinterest marketing and how it can help you grow your business. I know there’s more behind your business. You don’t just work to fund a beach vacation or acquire piles of cash. This work can enable you to do things that make an impact in your family’s life or in your community.
The gift of a beautiful team and the opportunities I get are not lost on me. I am forever grateful for a team that walks with us through our pain and grief and carries the load when I can’t. These people who run Simple Pin are a gift to me. You, as a listener, are a gift. Our clients are also an amazing gift.
Thank you for supporting what we do and walking along with us as we walk through this process behind the business. Cheers to new beginnings and new relationships with people we never expected. We hope that there are amazing opportunities and growth for you in the rest of 2018.
3:31 – The Start of Simple Pin and Life Transitions
5:30 – Finding Out About Baby Girl
9:20 – The Next Step
11:17 – Working With Baby Girl
15:40 – Having Faith
21:12 – The Next Big Hurdle
25:06 -Transitioning Baby Girl
27:08 – The Last Year
Rebecca Portsmouth says
What a beautiful story Kate, thanks so much for sharing.
Kate Ahl says
Thank you for listening!
So touching and so difficult for you. You have made a huge and positive impact on someone’s life.
Kate Ahl says
It’s hard to see it as huge but we’re reminded that it wasn’t in vain.
Denise Renae says
Yes, Kate, thanks for sharing and being REAL with what you have been going through these last few years. You are amazing!!! Blessings to you and your family in this next season of life.
Kate Ahl says
Bless you for those sweet words.
Sarah Mueller says
I have nothing but admiration and tears, Kate.
Kate Ahl says
Thank you, Sarah!
Kate, this is so beautiful and touching. I’m so sorry for the grief you and your family have experienced and continue to experience, most likely, each time you visit with her. May God continue to write a beautiful story with her life and in your family’s.
Kate Ahl says
Watching the story unfold is hard but thank you for that great reminder.
Thanks so much for sharing this Kate! You have inspired me, made me cry, and stirred up my faith all at once. May God continue to bless you, your family, and your business.
Kate Ahl says
You as well!
Thank you for sharing your story. My sister has been fostering for years and it’s been such a struggle to watch them navigate the system while enduring hope and heartbreak. I’m so sorry you’ve lost your sweet girl. In the two years she spent with you, you surely changed her life for the better. As a TpTer, thanks for always being such a great source of help and support for our community.
Kate Ahl says
You’re so welcome! and thank you for listening.
God doesn’t waste a thing. Not this experience in your family, not your telling of it. Thank you for opening up your heart, your home, and your arms to Baby Girl — and for sharing with those of us who listen to your podcast.
Kate Ahl says
Indeed, Kate, a debt of gratitude is in order for sharing and being REAL with what you have been experiencing this most recent couple of years. You are astounding!!! Gifts to you and your family in this next period of life.
Kate Ahl says
Thank you for listening!!
Brenda Patterson says
Thank you so much for sharing this heart rending story. I write this through tears flowing down my cheeks. You and your family are amazing and such an inspiration for us all. This inspires me to know I can work through anything with God’s help. Blessings to you and yours.
Kate Ahl says
I am in the midst of writing a post about how much you’ve helped me learn Pinterest. Somehow, I landed on this in my research. Wait let’s say, God led me to this post.
I’m so glad you shared. I think as women who are trying to run a company, lead a team, or other role in leadership we try to be stoic and not share our personal lives. Thank you for sharing yours with us.
My best friend has had a “baby girl” in her life since last October. The court will most likely choose reunification next week. This “baby girl” not only came into her life but also her community of friend’s lives. Our children have come to love her and see her as Nicole’s “baby girl”. My toddler will also grieve his best little friend not being a part of our lives. We’ve tried to prepare him but he just doesn’t get it. How do we grasp this grief?
I’m so thankful that you and my friend said yes to the call. It takes a huge amount of sacrificial love (Like His for us!) to do what you guys are doing.
Kate Ahl says
Thank you for supporting her and being her friend during this time. Just walking through it, talking about how much it hurts and listening when needed will make all the difference. Thank you for sharing.
Oh Kate! I know you don’t feel like you are a hero, but you definitely are to “baby girl” and her family. Many people would have been bitter and ugly towards her father, but instead you championed him and challenged him to be better. You are truly on God’s errand. That’s not always easy, is it? However, God always makes it worth it to do His work and be His hands. So, while you might not feel special or like a hero, you are definitely an angel!
Thanks for all you do for the blogging community!
Kate Ahl says
thank you for your encouragement. 🙂
Pam Farley says
Oh Kate! Thank you so much for sharing this. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have part of your heart ripped away like that…and to have to continue working and speaking through all of it. I wish I had some wise words to share or advice to give, but I don’t. Your strength and your heart are amazing.
Kate Ahl says
Just listening to the story is the best gift. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing your story! I have to disagree with one thing though – you ARE amazing!
Sometimes we just want to run so far from what God is challenging (and equipping) us to do. Thanks for stepping up to the plate.
I couldn’t say it better than Sandi did above: “May God continue to write a beautiful story with her life and in your family’s.”
Kate Ahl says
You are so kind! Thank you!
Liana Sanders says
I wanted to thank you for sharing Kate. I started using Pinterest for my business after seeing you at SMMW last year. I myself had my business grow and expand while I was fostering kids for 5 years, due to the unexpected hurdles and time needing to be given to fostering. I could see myself in your story. Take your time before fostering again. I think my biggest regret was taking one kid after another when we really needed a break. Thanks for sharing.
Kate Ahl says
I so appreciate you saying that. It’s been a tension between guilt and knowing that I just can’t enter in just yet.
Such a wonderful story….Love the way you have described.
Dee Trethewey says
OMG! Such a beautiful story. You are so amazing. There should be more people like you out there. What an ordeal but you are clearly the perfect family for this. FYI! You have the most amazing team. I’m so glad you still have a connection with Baby Girl.
Cheers to new beginnings! xoxo
Diane Lockman says
Kate, your vulnerability and willingness to obey the Lord’s call has moved me to tears. I know that He is pleased and will continue bringing more baby girls to love into your life.
My own story is one of great loss (a son). After two healthy babies and a late start to motherhood (12 years of career first), I regularly cried out to the Lord with regret for waiting so late to have my babies. One day He impressed these words on my heart, “why are you crying? You can have as many sons and daughters as you want. Look around you. There are so many who need your love.”
That internal conversation changed my perspective on parenting. I now have numerous “children” both biological and “adopted” … from a literal 2 year old girl of a single dad whom I babysit to several young adult women who meet with me for coffee and chats. I am so blessed!
Bless you for sharing!
Kate Ahl says
Thank you 🙂
You are so right about us all not knowing each other’s behind the scenes stories. Thank you so much for sharing yours! What an incredible journey you’ve been on…and what courage you’ve shown.
We have something in common and that I have a son with type one diabetes who is diagnosed when he was three and is now 26, living on his own and has a very full life. I’m always amazed at what we parents handle and I keep telling myself God gives us what we can handle although many times I’m not sure I can! Hang in there!!
Thank you for your community !
Kate Ahl says
Thank you for sharing that!
Sharica Rodgers says
Hello Kate, I am a little late writing this, but I just wanted too thank you for this story. I have been listening to you for quite sometime now and have learned so much so wanted to thank you for what you do and the inspiration that you are to women like me. I am a stay-at-home mom who is now tying to turn into a work-at-home-mom. Your site and podcast have been a big help in all that, so thank you!.
This episode, however, was special and precious. My eyes were wet as I listened, perceiving the openness and humility you expressed in the face of the trial that the Lord has brought your family through. By serving Him first, and then others, you suffered yourself. That must be very precious to Him. I am reminded of I Peter 2: 20-24 andI Peter 5 6-11. Though we have never fostered, I know others that do. Your story brings me perspective on what they may be going through. Thank you for that. Somehow I missed your earlier episode, and i didn’t realize your daughter had type 1. My 11 yr old son was diagnosed with type 1, six months ago and we’re still dealing with the surreal reality of what that all means. It is encouraging to learn about others who have been there too. Thank you Sister, for being willing to be used by the Master.
Kate Ahl says
Oh my! First, it is a HUGE transition, but I can assure you that it will all settle in time. We let our daughter take the lead in how she wanted to deal with her disease and that has been a huge help to us. She’s on a pump now and just got a sensor.
And thank you for listening and I’m so thankful it will help you understand those who foster just a little bit better. It’s a crazy ride but I believe it’s all part of a bigger story that will bring amazing things in the lives of our family and hers.
Jamie Tarence says
You have a crown in Heaven, Kate. Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart and story. I am truly inspired. Blessings to you and yours.
kate ahl says
That’s so sweet of you to say Jamie!