Turning the Corner

I finished my final day at the nonprofit yesterday. I felt sad when I worked on Tuesday and even the week prior, but yesterday, I felt a relief to be done and to not make that commute anymore. My supervisor was really sweet and gave me a beautiful orchid plant with bamboo. I'm looking at it now, and it's very peaceful. I also received a card from her and the director and a yummy pastry. Next Wednesday is the official staff send off at a local restaurant/bar, which has a lovely outdoor patio.

I will now have Tuesdays off, and since my scheduled college class did not go forward unfortunately (seems the concurrent enrollment process was not planned well), I plan to use Tuesdays to work on my business and sign a couple of clients in this area. Towards that end, I also scheduled a career transition meetup group for next month at a local restaurant. Fingers crossed I'll connect with a client that way, as well. It feels good to be putting energy into my business again; I've missed it and enjoy getting back to the creativity, planning, and writing skills it requires.

On the adoption front, I haven't heard anything from my placement social worker yet this month but wasn't expecting to until the next week. I feel like I'm in a void right now because, after a year of paperwork, action steps, and getting my home ready, there are no specific tasks I'm supposed to be completing.

I do have a training coming up in October through my agency, so I'm looking forward to that. Can you think of anything further I should be doing to prepare during this time? I'm remembering some video training links in the notebook the social worker gave me… Maybe I'll check a couple of those out. If you know of foster adoption blogs, I would appreciate hearing about them in comments.

I'm seeing all these people taking trips on Facebook. My summer was over a long time ago, even though it feels like we just turned the corner weather-wise. I'm actually in to working and making money right now, and as mentioned, building my business again. My boring weekend consists of doing some cleaning and laundry, and finishing a business newsletter to send out. As the temperatures drop, I do find myself looking forward to the holiday time, starting with Halloween.  Praying for a placement before Christmas.


A Lowly Adventure

Yesterday, I had the most unpleasant adventure. I was going to pick up a few things at Best Buy in my town, but realized after driving there that what I thought was Best Buy was actually Staples!

So, since we're having an outrageous heat wave, and I wanted to stay in air-conditioning as much as possible – including inside my car –  I set the GPS for a Best Buy in the next town north, about 20 miles away.

I blame it on the heat, but I failed to remember I was a bit low on gas, until that is I was 1 mile from my destination and pushing on the gas pedal with no response. Aargh! It's been forever since I ran out of gas, and I felt like a irresponsible teenager.

I demonstrated my dramatic side on the phone to the roadside assistance dispatcher, all but saying I was about to die in the heat. The wait could've been much worse, there was even a breeze, but I was so relieved when the roadside assistance arrive to save the day with a gas can.

Apparently, I was bored and needed to create some adventure in my life, but this was really the bottom of the barrel in terms of adventures!


It could happen tomorrow...

I am officially open and eligible for foster care/adoption placement!

The first visit with the placement social worker went fine. Oddly, she wasn't the person I was thinking that she was. Had very similar "B" names, at least in my less-than-detail-oriented brain.   The office at one I thought it was showed up, and continuing the trend, she was fairly young, though maybe a little older than my homestudy social worker.

I thought she might want to double check my safety measures or look more closely around the house, but the visit was mainly focused on going through a placement binder she gave me. It had various sections with details about the placement process and policies, as well as some forms that I will use after placement.

New answers and information I was given included:

  • They go to two meetings each month with different county groups. She said one is with the Sacramento region and the other is Bay Area. This was good news, because I thought they just had one meeting a month and alternated.
  • She will check in with me once a month going forward, generally during the fourth week, when both meetings have happened. I asked if I could check with her in-between, and she seemed less than thrilled with that idea. I also got a lukewarm response when I asked if she would let me know when she submitted me to be considered for placement. Maybe she's busy and has a certain system for communicating and tracking things. A month seems so long right now, but I guess I'll have to be patient.
  • Once I am placed with a child, I will get a new (third) social worker!  This worker will meet with me in my home once a week for the first 2 to 3 months of placement, and then every other week until  adoption.  Right now, I'm thrilled with that idea, but maybe the reality will be different than what I imagine. I'm thinking I will appreciate checking in and getting feedback and advice.
  • I was less thrilled to hear that a county worker from the child's home county may also be part of this visit, in order to also check up on the child. I'm sure it will be fine, but that visit feels less supportive and more scrutinizing. Also, there is no schedule to their visits; it sounds like they just come randomly when they can.
  • They will redo the home check at the time of placement, then again every three months.
  • Each year, I'm required to complete 12 hours of ongoing education. This should include six hours in-person, and six hours maximum of book reading, online education, watching a movie or show like "This is Us," etc. Luckily, I like receiving training, and I'm interested in learning as much as I can. I can see how this may be more challenging once I have a placement and less time, but it still seems reasonable.
  • From past experience I know they don't like to conjecture or or even share opinions based on their experience, but she did tell me that the majority of their placements are mixed race, and there are not many children placed of Asian heritage. Most kids of color are Latino and African-American.
  • When pressed as to what she might guess my timeline would be for placement, she said maybe six months. I know she would estimate very conservatively, so I was actually OK hearing that, thinking it might be less but that would likely be the maximum.
  • A revelation I was shocked to hear was that she had already submitted me for one placement! She said she hadn't heard back so that meant likely I would not be carried forward, but wow! Exciting!

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on one topic she broached early on, which was whether I would consider emergency placement with a newborn. As you can imagine, I would love to be placed with a newborn, so that sounds really appealing...except that, per my conversation about this with my first social worker, newborns usually have a high-risk of reunification. They have obviously not had time to go through any court hearings so are just starting in the process, likely due to drug or alcohol exposure. She said one of her families is now on their third newborn placement. This would be so incredibly difficult emotionally for me.

The other logistical consideration that comes up is that I will be a single working mom, and will not likely have six or more weeks off, as many people do. Most childcares do not take newborns under six weeks, if they take them at all. So I told her probably not… What would you do if you were me?


Fall Beginnings - and Endings

School started back up this week in my high school to college program. Ah yes,  I remember it well – the stress and disorganization. lol. The program has been existence for several years now but because of the revolving door of staff and counselors, the procedures and systems of operation are often revolving or unclear themselves. At least this year we three as counselors are all returning from spring semester, so there is consistency for the students and for us in terms of working together. 

The most frustrating part for me is the fact that, because the program is generally understaffed and right now down an office person even from that, we are being asked to do data entry and administrative updates that should not be on our plates. It doesn't really make sense for them, either, to pay counselor salaries for this type of work. Oh well, to be honest, I'm just grateful to have a stable job and to work my full schedule again after sparse hours this summer. And it feels great to know the students – at least most of the ones on my caseload - from last year and feel a greater sense of comfort and belonging in the program. 

In other work related news, I gave notice at my nonprofit. As you can imagine, I have very mixed feelings about this. The camaraderie and acceptance I felt there most of the time was unparalleled.  The pay, however, was paltry, and the time and effort spent commuting from my new home was far more than I initially hoped. I barely got through last semester, and a couple red flag experiences showed me it was not sustainable, especially considering that I'm teaching a class September to November. I will really miss my colleagues there and miss the friendships,  connection, and sense of emotional safety.  The gifts I will take with me when I leave at the beginning of September include:
  • Friendships that I truly hope will last over time 
  • Feeling safe enough there to talk through feelings and inevitable differences that came up, and experiencing growth as a result (i.e. Being more proactive, and knowing that I thrive as an employee with individual recognition and appreciation from my supervisor).
  • An agreement that they can call me to fill-in over the summer or holidays etc. when whomever they replace me with can't work -  basically being a substitute for that position.  
  • A vastly greater awareness of brain injuries and how they affect people's lives, as well as their loved ones. More empathy and understanding for those who have had concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and strokes. 
  • An inner feeling of fulfillment, knowing I made a difference in people's lives.  
I will definitely not miss the commute, and it will help me to focus and prioritize my college job, which is really my bread-and-butter income. Depending on how much bandwidth the class takes, I may even have time to work towards landing a few career counseling clients in my new area. 

Next week, regular high school and college class schedules begin –  last week was just welcome week –  and I also have my visit with the placement social worker. It seems like the wait for this visit  has been forever, for some reason. I need to clean the house over the next few days, which I hate doing, but it's for an excellent cause! After that, I will be waiting for a placement! 


A Long-Awaited Celebration

I finally received my certificate of approval for the homestudy yesterday! It's currently on my mantle where I can see it, along with an official card for my wallet proving I'm a certified foster parent. I would post a picture, but I don't want to put my details on up on the blog...I promise it is a beautiful sight to see and includes placement parameters of gender, age, and ethnicity, etc. 😃

I sent the news to my closest friends and family, but it was one of those times I wished I lived close to someone with whom I could actually celebrate in person. It would've been wonderful to go out and have a drink and discuss and toast this significant achievement.

My aunt asked me if I'm on the waiting list now… I don't think I am until I meet with my placement social worker on the 22nd, but I'm not sure. Actually,  now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure because I haven't given them the three copies of my family book yet, which I will do when she visits.

Apparently, as I think I shared before,  they take these books to the meetings with the various counties and show them to the folks who are representing the children who need placement. So that will be another milestone, but these pieces of paper provide a sense of huge accomplishment and are something that can't be taken away from me.

I might go to my local Mexican restaurant to celebrate for an early dinner tonight… On Sunday I'm meeting with a local SMC who is also pursuing adoption.  I'm looking forward to hearing her perspective and experience so far.

Other than that, my current excitement is watching Game of Thrones. It is so incredibly violent! But I'm pretty addicted now, and the acting is excellent. I have waited to watch it for a long time but I am now finishing season three. Kind of interesting hearing about how the Notre Dame cathedral in France is apparently crumbling because of pollution, over use, and plain old time. It was built 800 years ago in medieval times, similar to Game of Thrones era – without the Science fiction and  magic.


Anticipating Fall Changes

Summer definitely feels on the downward side, on its way out. I know the weather will be nice for a while longer, happily, but my school year - and returning to a 40-hour work week - is ramping up.

This is my last week working just a few hours at the college. Next week I am scheduled for three days there, and the following week I return to four, while continuing to fit in my 15 hours at the nonprofit. That week well actually entail longer days because of new student orientation and two days of staff retreat. So I'm a little nervous about the increased stress and energy demand, but overall I'm excited and ready for the return to a bigger paycheck!

A last minute twist in this semester schedule is that I was offered a one-unit career assessment class as part of a move towards more dual enrollment college classes at high schools. I have mixed feelings about it… the pros are that it increases my experience and value at my new college, as well as builds my resume in terms of teaching a new class. Plus, it's in my area of passion and expertise, and takes a few hours away from the high school to college program, which I appreciate.

On the con side, it's a half hour away and involves teaching high school students. I think they'll be relatively well-behaved students, in comparison to other schools where I've worked, but I still prefer college. It will also involve considerable time on the front end to prepare lesson plans, a syllabus, etc., as is always required for a new class. Since it's only one unit, though, it will only be an hour and a half of teaching, one day a week for eight weeks, and I'm sure it will fly by. Overall, it's a positive, and I'm glad for the opportunity.

I can't help but think about how my schedule will need to change if I'm placed with a child in the near future. My home study is complete - though they're late in getting my certificate. A small issue, but I can't wait to hold that official piece of paper in my hand! I have a meeting scheduled with my new placement social worker, B, in August, then she will start bringing my family book to county meetings, looking to match me with a child.

Everything is feeling more real to me now, and I notice a variety of feelings…First and foremost I'm feeling  excited and hopeful, and I also notice feeling some curiosity and anxiety about the dramatic changes that will unfold in my life. My trip to Tahoe and caring for my nieces and nephew, as well as, don't laugh, but watching Outdaughtered on TLC and other parenting shows, I'm anticipating the demands of parenting an infant or toddler more acutely.

I'm thinking this is a good thing, psychologically preparing me. At least I hope so! But in the end, as a friend told me, I can't really know how it will be until it happens. I do know that my work schedule will necessarily change, at least for a while. I will probably have to let go of the nonprofit work and will try to cluster my work hours into three or four days. A question for the parents out there, what were you most surprised by once your child arrived?  What changes did you have to make that you didn't anticipate?


Tahoe Fourth of July 2017

Back from Tahoe - the whole family did end up staying through the Fourth, though my Dad and his partner left on the third. Some fun experiences I want to remember:

  • Making red white and blue chocolate-covered marshmallows with my two oldest nieces. What a mess! But awesome! Always interesting  managing the controlled chaos of a project like this, keeping it upbeat and fun, while trying not to let the kitchen explode in stickiness, and ending up with a product the rest of the family can actually eat. lol
  • Dinner with my Dad and his partner, M, on the first night I arrived. It was a beautiful, sunny evening and we sat on the outside deck by the river. We had salads and calamari appetizer, then I had the most delicious sea scallops. I'm enjoying getting to know M and feel pretty comfortable around her now, and we all had good conversation, catching up. We shared humor, too, when my Dad related an article he'd read about a study showing that smiling contributes to good health. If you know my dad, you know he's not a real "smiley" guy.  He was practicing smiling in this big, and unatural-for-him way, and M and I were mirroring him. You probably had to be there but it was pretty funny.
  • Going out on the big wood boat the following day. My Dad restored this boat that used to be used in Florida for tours of the Miami Beach area. The boat is appropriately dubbed the "Miami." It provides a more-comfortable-than-average boat ride, and we rode all around the lake looking at various houses and developments along the shore, having a picnic of bagels and coffee, and just enjoying ourselves. Oh, and I was super excited for Zoey to experience her first boat ride! M has a dog that is super passive and mellow so there is no tension and both dogs enjoyed themselves.
  • Decorating the house with my niece J for the Fourth of July. This is a tradition that started with her Mima, so it's a little nostalgic but also feels good to carry on. We discussed where to hang various items, and ended up taping small American flags all around the deck railing, which was super cute. J hung red white and blue stars up and down the staircase, and I posted sparkly stars and pinwheels on each dining room chair.
  • Swimming and playing in the lake with everyone. We anchored and swam a few times off the speed boat, which has a platform that lowers down slightly into the water off the back and makes it ideal for kids (and adults) to get in and out of the water. I took videos of people holding hands and jumping in to the water together - so cute. We also sat/laid out quite a bit down on the dock, and this year I went kayaking and paddle boarding, too. My niece J and I went kayaking together and we agreed on various goals like paddling around the neighbors sailboat etc. The last time I tried paddle boarding, I used my little sisters paddleboard which was too small for me, and I kept flipping over and falling off. This one was bigger, and though I did have one hilarious feet-in-the-air backwards fall into the water, for the most part I was able to stay upright.
  • Watching fireworks on the end of the dock on the Fourth of July. The adults had deck chairs sipping wine and the kids sat on the blankets in front of us, as well as on their parents' laps. We didn't end up taking the boat out like we have in years past… I guess it's been decided that it's just too stressful and dangerous because of all the boat traffic and how dark it is. The fireworks were more distant, but we still had a great time. As a bonus, the accompanying music track was largely made up of artists we have lost in the last year or two – a bit nostalgic but really good music from David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, etc.

Overall, it was a fun and memorable trip, and I am grateful. The usual challenges did come up at times, such as my brother-in-law, and brother to a lesser extent, drinking a lot and creating more of a "party vibe" at times than I would like. A lot of conversations transpiring about money and house remodels and investing. All valid topics, though I prefer more personal conversations. But that's OK, and I had some good conversations on the side.

My brother and I got in a dumb disagreement on the fourth. I wondered why he didn't make me a drink or ask if I wanted one when he made them for others, which led to him criticizing me about not offering him anything (I reminded him of wine I'd shared and he'd forgot the breakfast I made for everyone the day before) or emptying the dishwasher...I don't really understand what he was talking about. I feel like I work hard to contribute and be helpful. In any case, I became really hurt and angry and had to leave and take a breather. We agreed to talk about this exchange more in the coming week or two.

I spent time supervising and caring for the kids sometimes when their parents left to go to the store or do another errand. Caring for three or four kids takes a lot of energy and focus. I admit that emptying the dishwasher was not on my mind during these times. I love my nieces and nephew to the moon and back, but a couple experiences I had this week confirm to me that I hope to have just one child! Regardless, it was good practice for parenting, which does involve juggling a lot of different demands.