1/30/2016

We Made it to the Other Side of Surgery!

We successfully made it through S's colon cancer surgery! Yay!

From what the doctor said, everything went well, and the part of the colon he removed had "clean edges," which means cancer free to the eye (his chemo and radiation did it's job). S still has to have a final round of chemo beginning in a few weeks, so that any microscopic cancer cells are destroyed and chances of recurrence go way down. The surgery lasted a couple hours longer than initially planned, and the doctor told me it was because he is carrying extra weight so it took longer to create the ileostomy. This is a health issue S said he plans to address going forward, fingers crossed.

I may not have mentioned that S has to have a temporary ileostomy for six months. It would normally be 9 weeks but he has to recover from this surgery, undergo chemo, then recover from chemo, then have the ileostomy reversal surgery. So, yeah, it is a lot of treatment and recovery, but it should be completed by summer, thank God.

I had a moment of feeling really overwhelmed and questioning whether I could handle going through this with S considering our level of commitment... my thoughts were that this is the kind of thing where you would automatically jump into supporting your spouse if you were married, but S and I are not married and were even having some bumps in our relationship a month or two ago. For one thing, I want to pursue having or adopting a child and S was uncertain how he felt about that.

But in the days prior to the surgery, we talked about these issues and worked through them. S still isn't as excited as I am about having a child - for him, another child - and admitted he had been hoping I might let that dream go (really? after all I've been through and all you know about me? grr), but I said that I needed him to be supportive and to make the situation "better" with him there than "worse." I said I knew it couldn't be his focus with so much on his plate but that I potentially wanted to move forward within this six month time frame of his treatment/recovery and needed to know he would be supportive. I'm happy to say, he agreed. *As a caviat, I want to say that moving forward would assume that I either nailed down another "for sure" college counseling job or my business took off in a way that would provide a consistent, livable income.

Also, I was able to wrap my brain around the six months (!) of treatment and what that entailed and, though we didn't say specifically we intended to get engaged/married, we did broach the subject. He indicated he valued me bringing it up and wanted to talk again in the near future. Yes, a lot has gone down in the last few weeks!

S gets out of the hospital today, and I will pick him up and take him home to his house. His daughter is arriving today from the DC and intends to stay with him tonight, so I will probably go home later and give them time. I admit I'm nervous about that, though, since she would be staying in a separate room downstairs and what if, God forbid, something came up where he couldn't call out to her. We will see how things unfold.

I will post more on other life happenings soon. Hope your year is starting well and less dramatically!

1/10/2016

Happy New Year 2016!


Checking in post holiday madness... It feels like we have turned the corner into the new year and all the possibilities it holds. Our family trip to Oregon was good overall, all things considered. Highlights included:
  • Seeing my nieces and nephew of course! They are getting bigger and are so very, very cute. I took the older two out for ice cream with S one night, which was fun. My oldest niece, J, is totally into reading books now, just like I was at her age! I gave her a big book of horse stories that had once been mine, which she seemed excited about.
  • We went to the coast with my brother, sister-in-law, and two littlest nieces one day, and I ran from the waves on the beach with the three-year-old, like my Dad used to do with me. The baby (10-months now) is getting cuter all the time and still has a mellow personality, like my brother - a nice contrast to her big sister who is super active and feisty. :)
  • S and I worked out every day at the family athletic club during the last few days there. We had a dog-friendly hotel room in walking distance from downtown, which worked out really well. When we got back, we joined a small workout gym down the street from my house and are both looking forward to continuing our efforts to increase fitness.
  • As expected, we all felt some sadness on Christmas missing my Mom. I had a good cry at the end of the day and lit a candle in her memory. Her birthday was yesterday, as well, and we all raised a virtual glass of wine in her honor. 
  • My Dad and Aunt, who are now very officially an item, were still in their "new romance" mode, which can be annoying as he is then not fully present to what's going on. We all - except for my sister's family who took a short family trip - attended the NYE party at the athletic club (which was just "okay" but had fun dancing with S) and my brother was annoyed that Dad and my Aunt were kissing on the dance floor at the end of the night. :-/ That said, S and I did have a nice goodbye breakfast with them the day we drove back. Apparently, there are plans being made for her to move to Oregon.
  • Relationship-wise, S and I got along "okay," which is actually a big step up, if you can recall previous trips. Sorry for TMI, but I was on my cycle during the first half of the trip and then S had a stomach bug the last half, so we didn't have much "romance," but were able to live together in a very small hotel room for twice the time we normally stay, have fun, and work through disagreements fairly well and quickly when they came up. Ironically, at the very end of the trip, we had our worst fight about the way I talked to him when I told him to stop removing the lights on a fake Xmas tree we were readying to return to my sister. I felt justified telling him to stop because I had asked him not to take them off in the first place. He thought he was doing the safe thing, and also felt I was being controlling and should let this small thing go. So the first part of our drive was stressful but then I had a cry, which in hindsight was likely releasing emotions from the family trip as much as being about our argument, and we talked it through.
Now, we are back into our routine of seeing each other a couple times a week and talking/texting every day.

Work-wise, my routine has changed a lot, though, in that, as mentioned, I'm not at the college this semester (except for a few days week after next). I caught a flu last week, though, so have only had a few days of health. I have one more client now, bringing the total to six and hope to gain two more by the end of this month. Please send me good wishes! I sent out a mass holiday letter and will be following up with past and potential clients/referral partners by phone starting next week. I also have another career transition meet-up group next Wednesday evening with six people signed up so far. At these monthly meet-ups, I will continue to sign folks up for free consultations and hope to gain another client or two each time. I'm also in the process of developing a newsletter and other social media ideas so that will help with outreach, as well.

I also have two more applications to submit for local counseling jobs. I have started receiving unemployment, which should help me get through the next two-three months. I wish I could know where the chips will fall on the job front. I'm not sure whether I would prefer to just rely on my business or whether I would like to find another part-time college counseling gig and continue that in addition to working with 8-10 clients. In a way, working at the college two days a week would be ideal right now because I just show up and leave, without taking work home. With my clients, I need to track each of their progress and do a lot of outside research and communication. I have adjusted to having six clients but 10-15 will definitely be another level of adjustment. I enjoy the outside work with clients more, however.

Completely relying on individual client load, it seems at my current fee structure, I would need 15+ clients. I'm still figuring it all out, and I feel like there are parts of this puzzle that are out of my hands. I suppose I am just going to continue to take the next steps in both applying for jobs and building my business until things become more clear.

12/22/2015

Lots Happening Over Here

Much has happened this last week...

S and I were denied on our co-housing bid! On very short notice, we heard of this co-housing development, toured the construction at an open house, and put our hats in the ring. Honestly, it was an awkward and challenging process, and S and I learned as much about each other and working as team as we did about the community and their requirements and opportunities. The super enticing part of this co-housing development for me was - well, of course living in co-housing, in which you have your own separate unit, as well as share a large common kitchen, common space, and community meals and activities - but also that we could buy in at 2% and work our way up to 5-10% ownership in the LLC. For S and I, who don't have huge savings, this was an exciting avenue for ownership and increased security.

But it was not to be... I found the four people who were current members and "in charge" of the process to be woefully inadequate at group facilitation, as well as just generally not very warm and welcoming. To make it worse, the head guy who started the project and secured the financing, thought he was a *great* facilitator and just generally had a very high opinion of himself.

Additional factors included S and I having a couple of drinks at an event before the first group meeting and S talking a bit too much (which could easily have been managed by a skilled facilitator). It wasn't some drunken tirade or anything, just a little too verbose, which the head guy actually brought up to him at a separate meeting with us (!) and S responded non-defensively and positively. Also, they wanted people of color, as all four of them are white and they want to represent the diversity of the neighborhood. This is positive but also difficult, as the starting group is not diverse.

In any case, I think it's for the best it didn't work out and am hopeful we will find a better situation for us. Part of moving forward with that is clarifying what type of place we want and where we want to be located... complicated by the fact that I may find a part or full-time counseling job in a number of cities in the B@y Area. My business is growing, but I am not yet ready to completely rely on it financially. Overall, an exciting planning process, actually! But some stress, too.

Also, since I mentioned my birthday in the last post, I wanted to share that it was a great day and night! Mani-Pedi was lovely and relaxing, I did a bit of Xmas shopping, as well, and then met S for appetizers and drinks at a fun and surprisingly tasty upscale vegan restaurant, then moved down the street to another cozy restaurant with a lovely ambiance and waitstaff for dinner. Chocolate Pot for dessert - yummm.

I am doing very well with Christmas preparations for Oregon but suddenly here we are - leaving tomorrow morning! Ack! I still have some shopping to do, Zoey needs a bath, and I need to pack! What I have done is make banana bread and cookies, do all the laundry, including Zoey's, and do much of the shopping. So. many. people. to shop for, and I'm once again thinking longingly of the families that pick one person out of a hat or just buy presents for the kids. Ah well, it will be nice on Christmas. Speaking of which, I better get going on my long list for today! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas! I will check in again from Oregon...

p.s. S seems to have wrapped his head around being a Dad and a Grandpa (his young daughter - early 20s - had a baby this year), and we have been talking about possibilities... Of course, we need to get through the next phase of his treatment.

12/13/2015

Holiday Hustle

December is clipping along... I can't believe my birthday is next week. I made my Christmas shopping list for family, though on reflection, I should probably lower the budget, as my income is uncertain starting in late January. I will get one more full paycheck from the college on January 10th, then will be working a four-day counseling gig in mid-January as part of a math support intersession program. I also will begin receiving unemployment in January, though it will obviously be much less than my regular paycheck.

Good news on the business front: I now have five clients! Yay! I just signed another one on Friday for a two month package. My goal is to increase that number to 10 in the next two months; wish me luck!

I still need to figure out how to plan for dramatic monthly income variations, due to some clients paying for counseling packages up front, then not paying anything for the next couple of months. I imagine part of strategy for managing this is figuring out your average monthly income, then budgeting for that amount. But I also want to have a way to calculate the necessary rate of new clients I need to sign each month to maintain my desired level of income. I can see that will vary depending on whether I am signing clients for four sessions, six, or eight. If I have 10 clients, theoretically I am bringing in 2200+ a month, but most clients thus far are not paying monthly. I'd actually prefer they pay monthly, as I think it through, though of course it's exciting and fun to get large payment sums up front (at least for me who is still new at this). For now, I think I will aim for the number 10 and seek to maintain it. Does this make sense to you business-minded folks out there?

In "holiday event" news, S and I went out to my pre-birthday dinner last night and then to a beautiful and inspiring men's choir concert. S knows one of the choir members from work, and he had a solo, which was fun. The music spanned continents, cultures, and centuries, and many of the songs were in different languages. I found this interesting because when you don't know the words, you appreciate the musicality of the song, aside from meaning - a different perspective for word-oriented folks like me. S liked the Latin songs, and I did, too, but I also enjoyed the German songs. Part of the concert was a sing-a-long with traditional Chr1stmas songs, so we were given a fun chance to do some caroling. The restaurant was okay... took forever to seat us and the atmosphere was loud, but the Spanish tapas food was super yummy.

Lots more events this week: Repub debate on Tuesday with kids xmas shopping beforehand (S is very political and likes to watch all the debates, even though he's a dem, and we like watching them at this cool local theatre with food and drink); my official bday on Wednesday, for which we're meeting for happy hour drinks and appetizers, one of my favorite things to do; and finally S's holiday work party on Thursday at what looks to be quite a nice location in downtown SF. Monday, I have an alternative networking event with a more conscious bent to it... I generally dislike networking events but I'm giving this one a chance and am attending with two friends from my business program. I hope my Introvert can survive all the socializing! ha

My saving grace will be having daytime off on Monday and Wednesday, so I can get some down time. I'm going to get an inexpensive pedicure on Wednesday for my birthday, which will be a nice pampering experience; plus, my shoes for Thursday are open-toes and no one wants to see my feet, as they are!

I hope you are enjoying the holiday festivities and finding down times to rest and escape the hustle and bustle. 

12/07/2015

Finances, Fellowship, and Festivity

First of all, I'm happy to report that I am getting some traction with my business! I had my first month of bringing in over $1000 (around $1500) and sold my first 6-session career counseling package. I admit I did the happy dance on that one. If you're willing, please send positive thoughts to keep the flow going.

Then yesterday, S offered to contribute his marketing expertise to help me generate more leads through social media, blog posts, and newsletters. He wants to create a business providing these services to clients, so I am his guinea pig. It's a definite win-win!

In other financial news - hope this isn't too boring - I spoke with my financial advisor friend yesterday, and she is setting me up to manage my money on Quicken, which also has reporting features to help with planning and decision making around how many clients I need to maintain and bring in per month for relative financial stability. This is all new and I'm so grateful for the support.

I still plan to apply to any open part-time counseling positions I find, as well. In fact, I have a lead for the college in Napa where my friend and former colleague works, which I will apply for today.

On the relationship front, S and I did some shopping over the weekend, and he bought me an early birthday present of a fancy, sequined dress and matching sparkly shoes for two upcoming parties: his work Christmas party next week and the NYE party at my family's athletic club in Oregon. We also bought him a very nice lavender dress shirt to wear. I'm excited to attend his work party, as work is an area he has compartmentalized during all of our previous time together. I have never met his co-workers or attended any work functions and am looking forward to seeing that side of him.

We also had a counseling appointment over a week ago, shortly after Thanksgiving. It went okay, though we didn't yet create agreements for how we will handle communication when one or both of us are triggered and tension starts to escalate. I made sure to request that be forefront on the agenda for our next meeting. We did, however, have a vulnerable exchange in which I said I didn't want our relationship to be threatened by these type of conflicts. I want our commitment to be stronger than that, and a bit later (I felt very vulnerable in the meanwhile!), he said he wanted that, too.

Then, last night, after a little bickering where I felt criticized and unwanted, he reassured me that he wants me, that despite things he might prefer were different, he loves me and specifically wants "me." I'm not sure if this is coming across very clearly, but it was a significant moment. He has hesitated in reassuring me during these moments in the past.

Oh, and we bought and decorated a little Christmas tree last Thursday. It's so cute and festive and is bringing good cheer during this darker, colder month of December. S is coming over tonight, so we will have the chance to enjoy it more together. :)

11/30/2015

Start... and Stop

So. As you guys know, I am not currently ttc, and the possibility of ever doing that again in a realistic way is uncertain. At my age, the way that would look would involve donor eggs. Right now, the priority is S getting through treatment and recovering from his illness. He is done with the first round and surgery will likely be at the end of January or beginning of February. It will be nice to have a respite over the holidays.

Despite all this, and somewhat remarkably I think, during the last couple months, we have been sexually active and consciously not preventing any sort of miraculous conception that might have an ever so slight chance of occurring. Basically, both of us would be happy if this miracle should transpire. This last cycle, I feel something happened along those lines and then stopped. Here are the main signs below... what do you think?

1. The main sign was light spotting and cramping at around 8 dpo for just a half a day or so, which then totally stopped.

2. I was unusually moody for a significantly longer and more intense period.

3. I experienced sinus headaches the days prior and then a huge tension headache on Thanksgiving, along with slight nausea.

4. My period came in really weird with light spotting and no cramping after sex, which then totally stopped for another day before my period slowly began.

I know how low the odds are, but part of me still can't help hoping. And I am giving that part of me a little bit of room to have fun, but this month I got a little too attached and was bummed when it ended. :-(

11/22/2015

The Debbie Downer Report with a dash of hope

Quick request for regular readers - if you're willing, will you become a member of my blog? :) My number has been stuck at 29 for ages... Thank you!

This post will mainly be a downer report of recent events but also include some excitement and hope for the future.

First downer event: I was informed on Thursday that I will not receive counseling assignments at my college for Spring semester. WTF?! Complete shock and awe. Commence disbelief, questioning, hurt, and tears. Talked it over with a couple of other part-time counselors, and they were in shock, as well. In retrospect, I think there was a policy change that initiated at the beginning of this semester. The only clues about this change were part-timers not being inviting to the annual retreat and there being a couple of meetings to which part-timers were not invited. Just prior to learning about this development, I realized that our important orientation/education planning classes were only assigned to full-timers for the Spring, and all the other classes were only assigned to full-timers, as well.

I have worked at the college for several years and increased my responsibility over that time. When CTE counseling was shut down two and half years ago, I was really concerned about my job, but since then, I've worked hard to integrate into general counseling and feel proud of my efforts to serve students and teach several college success and orientation courses. I *never* have empty appointments, and my understanding was that we need more counselors, not less. To my knowledge, I have made no big mistakes or pissed any key people off. So WTF?! Again, my only guess is that it's policy regarding part-time/full-time that I don't fully understand yet, and something with the budget (errors in planning made at a higher level).

Since finding out this news, I have basically come to terms with the reality of what this means and have shifted into coping with it and planning how to replace that income - at least to the extent that I can get by - for Spring. Two hopeful possibilities in this regard: an interview for a full-time position at another local college on December first. I think I have shared how much competition there is for these positions but fingers crossed. The other possibility, which is the one I would prefer, is signing on several new clients. I have already signed on two more, for a total of three. I would like to find four or five more in the next two months. Will you envision that for me?

Positive actions so far include hosting a great career transition Meetup group last Tuesday during which four women signed up for consultations! I am realizing I need to actually get them in the calendar if at all possible before leaving because now we are playing tag to set them up. But signing one or two clients from that group would be wonderful! I am also following up with close friends and colleagues to generate more referrals, which is the best source of potential clients. Lastly, I am taking steps to increase my online presence and find opportunities to speak to introverts who are seeking meaningful career change and want to make a difference doing work that feels like play.

I have support through my business program, which is great. If you or someone you know needs career counseling support, will you please let me know in the comments or by sending a message? You can also contact me through my website (and receive a free gift of a Career Clarity Questionnaire) on my website at www.helpnavigatingtransitions.com  And all good thoughts very welcome. This could be the shove I need to expand my business...

The other downer news is that I was late to the adoption orientation and they had locked the doors and were turning people away. I was sad and disappointed, but I also see that the timing was likely not right for me. My intention is to attend the orientation in December, knowing that once I start the process it will likely be a minimum of several months before I complete the home study and am offered a placement.

Okay, I'm going to end on the excitement and hope! I'm excited to go to S's dad's house for Thanksgiving this week. We are staying in a dog-friendly hotel that night, and I'm looking forward to time away. Also, though it's more in the future, I continue to look forward to Christmas in Oregon. And in the weeks before that, I will also celebrate my birthday and attend S's company Christmas party, which will be festive and fun! S is buying me a special dress for my birthday, and we plan to shop for our niece and nephew's gifts together.

Finally, though S and I have had some difficult conversations lately and our old dynamic has reared it's head, we have also managed to talk through it so far and experience a new level of intimacy. We will be meeting with our counselor next weekend for help with healing more of our underlying "stuff" around this dynamic and developing communication agreements for when it comes up. I am feeling hopeful!