The Fires

It feels like we are beginning to pull out of the worst and scariest part of these wildfires. I'm grateful that I live in a town about 20 miles from the nearest fire zone. We opened evacuation shelters here but did not have to evacuate any neighborhoods ourselves. The first (and worst) night, I woke up and smelled smoke. But I thought the neighbor was smoking nextdoor and didn't realize it was from the fire until the next morning.

The people in the this area are really kind and neighborly and the shelters were quickly overflowing with volunteers and donations pretty early on, I decided that my role would be to support our students, many of whom live in towns to the north most hard hit by fires. I spent a lot of time messaging and calling students on my caseload to make sure they were okay. Three or four of our students did lose their homes and many were evacuated and went to stay with family or in shelters. A couple went to wait it out  in hotels in San Francisco.

I was actually glad to connect with students when I started doing outreach because I was needing some human connection and just to talk with people about what was going on. It was also good to feel useful.  On Monday a few colleagues and I got together and created a tentative plan for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week, then went out to lunch and just processed with ourselves. When we open tomorrow and we're going to have some food for the students and time to talk with one another and participate in a healing circle. Our Director is going to talk about what to expect in terms of feelings and experiences and when someone should get help. We're also going to do some meditation and mindfulness. So definitely a soft start.

I can't believe over 40 people died. I felt horrible when I heard two people had been found, then the number kept rising all week. Apparently the fire just moved so fast because of the wind that some people didn't have time to get out. A lot of these folks who died were older, in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. On Monday, my Director pointed out that many neighborhoods in this beautiful area have a lot of retirees. I was initially thinking it was only because of mobility and communication issues. I do still think that's sadly a piece of the puzzle, though. It's such a loss. Secondary losses include hundreds of thousands of acres of wildlands, several thousand homes and structures, and several wineries and vineyards, which are key to the local economy.

So glad historic downtown Sonoma didn't end up burning. The Firefighters are huge heroes who held the line there and many other places, preventing additional loss. Praying for families who lost loved ones or homes and for the ongoing recovery process.


Mysterious Melancholy

Does anyone else feel kind of out of it right now? I don't know if it's the change in the season and drop in temperature, or maybe it's that I've gone into more of a waiting versus action mode around the adoption process? I don't feel depressed, but I'm acting kind of depressed, as far as feeling lethargic and unmotivated. When I think of heading into holiday season with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I feel excited, but that's not translating into energy and activity.

Yesterday was super hectic, beginning with a monthly school community day, which included dialogue about an emotional issue that's been up for the students, then lunch with my teammates, then us all visiting another charter school site to get ideas, and ending with me meeting with a new client for the first time.

The new client, even after signing an agreement, decided she had reservations committing to a four-month counseling package. So I had to do my least favorite thing, at the end of a long day: have a sales conversation, communicating the value of my work. Blech. It reminded me why it's really important to invest in the initial phone consultation, so that the connection is firmly established and all questions are answered. She ended up switching to a shorter package to start with, but we went on to have a really good session and a positive ending at least.

In an effort to cheer myself up, I'm going to make a short list of what I hope transpires before the end of this year:
  • I am placed with a healthy infant before Thanksgiving and we start our journey together as a family. 
  • The other local client I consulted with last week pays his invoice and schedules his first appointment this weekend, and I begin working with two more new clients in the next month. 
  • I find the energy and initiative to get my house in order and get my self in order, as well!  I need to color and cut my hair, do my nails, and get another professional outfit or two for fall. 
I have a training called Nurtured Heart with my adoption agency next Friday, so I am looking forward to that. It occurs to me maybe I'm subconsciously feeling some grief about leaving the nonprofit and my friends there.  I do miss them and the laughter and conversation we shared.

 How are you feeling at this turn of the season?


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.