4/23/2017

Unpacking Physically and Mentally


I'm slowly getting unpacked and tired of dealing with boxes! I only have a few left of current items. Thank God I have a space under the stairs to store a lot of boxes that were in the attic. At some point I have to pare down some of the memorabilia from my mom and grandmothers, which is hard as I'm sure you know. I also have quite a few plastic bins on a utility storage shelf on the back patio. Praying they're waterproof! They are supposed to be. Kitchen is pretty much unpacked, which feels great.

The management promised me they would build a structure to protect my washer and dryer on the right side of patio within a couple weeks, and tomorrow is two weeks. Unfortunately, we've continued to have greater than expected rainfall here in California. I think they are OK so far but don't want them to get rained on further! Ironically, the manager is talking about the rain as an obstacle to them completing the project, aargh.  Rain rain go away.  Sorry for the boring moving updates… Hopefully this won't be the center of my focus much longer.

On a reflective note around moving, I was talking to S, who has provided some support for the move, and he shared his hope that I connect with local activities, like I did when I was living in Oakland. He said that when I was living in Martinez, it seemed like I was remote, and my involvement dropped off. I didn't really enjoy hearing that reflection! I did ask him to consider what his own feelings and motives may be around bringing that up, but I want to take in the essence of truth that may be there. I think there were several reasons why I didn't get more engaged locally in Martinez and that my activism, dance, and theater activities dropped off, including:

  1. The commute time was doubled to get to dance or interplay in Oakland/Berkeley.
  2. For a good amount of time, I was focused on my business marketing training and getting business clients.
  3. I injured my knee at the end of 2015, which  prevented me from dancing for several months and I never really got back into it. 
  4. Roommate and relationship drama sucked my energy for part of my time in Martinez.  
  5. The last half of 2016 and beginning of 2017, I was working toward completing my homestudy, which also takes focus and energy.

So some of the reasons were out of my control, while others relate to my priorities at the time. I do notice that the activities that dropped off the radar, were related to creativity, soul enrichment, and community that goes along with that. I want to make an effort to reengage with at least one or two of these activities, both for my own enrichment, but also because I think they will make me a better person and a better mom. And I see the role they can create in providing community and support when I have a child.

On that note, I researched swing dancing in my area and contacted the instructor for a workshop I hope to take May 20th, followed by a dance. One thing I did do in the last few months in Martinez, is find and attend a (spiritual) church a few times.  I looked into this type of church in my area, but didn't find anything. Ideally, I would really like to find a church in Petaluma because I want to be grounded as much as possible in where I actually live.  So I might attend a Presbyterian or progressive Christian church, if I can find one near me.  I want to keep this intention in my awareness going forward.

 Off to unpack more boxes and maybe even put together the crib! Wish me luck.

4/15/2017

A little worse for the wear, but I made it!

I survived the move! It took most of the day and into the evening on Monday, but I'm in Petaluma!  The commute was wonderful Wednesday to Friday of last week, though now commuting to my nonprofit job is not so great – 35 to 40 minutes from Petaluma. After April I'm going to request we follow through on the idea of working from home on Fridays, so I'll only need to do that Mondays and Wednesdays.  Overall, it's a giant improvement in commute time and quality of life.

Last Tuesday, I wrapped up my business in Martinez with my landlord, grabbed the last few items from the house and did some cleaning up, which added up to a sense of relief and closure.

My Internet was set up yesterday, and I've unpacked a few necessary boxes, but there's lots of unpacking to go!  I was looking forward to settling in and doing a lot of that this weekend, but unfortunately, yesterday at work I started feeling really sick in the morning, with an upset stomach, headache and achy-feverish feeling that intensified over the next couple hours. I left early and took vitamin C, rested, and went to bed very early. In the middle of the night, I woke up all hot and sweaty and felt like my fever had broken. This morning, knock on wood, I feel much better. Hoping it lasts! If so, I can unpack a few boxes today, still taking it pretty easy, then follow through on my Easter plans for brunch tomorrow.

Once I get settled in a little more, I will be excited to start walking downtown for movies, drinks and meals, and just figuring out my life in Petaluma as far as favorite stores, farmer's market routine, etc.  I will also be excited to get the kid's room set up! The bedrooms are both upstairs and carpeted, so it feels more cozy and I'm looking forward to getting it put together.

A down note, is that this complex does feel a little low-end...it's in a great location, as I've mentioned, but the grounds are not kept up very well- not much landscaping and groundcover and there are little bits of paper trash sometimes on the ground. The townhouse itself is more like an apartment, I would say. It has two stories, but the units are side-by-side and I can hear noise from my neighbors. It's quite small, as mentioned, and the carpeting is worn. From what the manager said, I get a sense that it's gradually being upgraded, so we'll see how things evolve. It has the necessities of what I need, including two bedrooms, a dishwasher and garbage disposal, a back patio area with space for Zoey to use, and located not far from a great downtown. I wish it were nicer, but for now I think this is definitely workable.

4/03/2017

i'm moving!

This is the week I move! I decided to take the townhouse, mainly because it ended up being the only choice. Luckily, it is walkable to downtown and I really like the location.

 For fun, here are the pros and cons:

Pros
  1. It is walkable to downtown! And to a park and all kinds of restaurants and a river path, etc. 
  2. Has two bedrooms that have pretty nice views. 
  3. Has a back patio, that while not big, has a dirt strip in the back which is key for livability with a dog. The original unit I looked at didn't have this, so I'm so glad I didn't end up taking out one.
  4. Has nice countertops, a dishwasher and garbage disposal. Again, the kitchen is small, but it will work for me.
  5. Has a washer and dryer in an enclosed structure on the back patio. 
  6. This unit is second from the end, so it's close to the pretty, well landscaped street the complex is located on. 
Cons
  1. Bathroom is OK but not quite as nice as I would like or as nice as one of the other units I viewed. 
  2. Not much storage space. For now I may use storage shelving on the patio, and eventually I may get an enclosed storage unit. I could pay $200 for a garage eventually, as well, but am definitely not going to do that right now. I can't help but think of the two small houses I looked at that had backyards and garages for the amount of money I would pay if I added the garage payment to this unit. Not equitable! 
  3. It's not particularly special or unique – a pretty standard townhouse  
  4. The living room window looks out onto the driveway/parking area of the complex, though as mentioned it's also near the end and I can see the street and some nice trees as well.
In other news, I had my first review at the nonprofit, and I admit it hurt my feelings. I think I've shared that I struggle with reviews in general. This review was more personal than any I've had in the past, however, in the sense that I feel like I'm friends with my supervisor. I care what she thinks and in many ways have worked to make her happy in ways that feel go above and beyond at times. I have generally felt comfortable and accepted working there, and like we're part of a family in many ways. 

As an example of going the extra mile, the last couple months, after I got my other job, it's been tough to come there two days a week after a full day at the college. But I continued doing that because I know she preferred that, and I wanted to stay connected and do right by the nonprofit. I work hard there, and while it's not a perfect fit, I feel I am overqualified for the job and excel at the main tasks, i.e. serving the clients and assuring they get the resources they need and are brought into our programs in a timely way.  

So in a long list of 1-4 ratings on various aspects of the job, getting mostly threes, some twos, and ONE four felt surprising and painful. I've tried to justify it in the sense that she is a hard grader, which she basically admitted. In talking some of the ratings through with her, the way she was interpreting things was in some cases inaccurate (e.g. she took resourceful to mean what brain injury resources I know on my own, versus the resourcefulness to find the information I need) and often based on where she was thinking I could grow, versus actual performance. She foresees a lot of growth in my future. LOL.  

The thing is, this job, as mentioned, does not pay well, and I'm overqualified. I really do work my butt off trying to serve the clients well and in a timely way.  I don't feel adequately appreciated or recognized for this, after this review.  And honestly, it makes me feel just a little less loyal and I think it will make it easier to quit in the near future when I get a placement. 

3/26/2017

Spring Break Report

I put two applications in at the end of last week… My top preference is for for a house that is a little higher than I wanted to pay, but it's in a great neighborhood and walkable location, has a little patio back yard area, two bedrooms, accepts dogs and is pretty cute. Fingers crossed!

The second one is for the townhouse complex I mentioned in a previous email. It's good in many ways but the landscaping/grounds leaves something to be desired and it doesn't have any ground/yard space within the patio area for Zoey.  I could see wanting to move in a year or two, whereas with the house I could see staying there much longer.

I could possibly continue on here in my current house for another two or three months. What do you think about that option? I mentioned in the last post that commuting is driving me insane, so it would be a tough road. But moving, especially moving in a rushed way, is super stressful too. It would just be stressful over a couple weeks, though, versus months.

Being on spring break from the college last week was so nice. I am somewhat dreading returning to that job this week. :-/  I am, however, going to continue trying to make the work environment healthier and more manageable for me by setting up the office/computer just down the hall to be functional for counselors to use when there are two of us there, which is most of the time. Before I left for break, I also scheduled times in the calendar for all the students on my caseload and enlisting the help of the office administrator to notify them and send out reminders, as well.  I hope this will make connecting with the students less chaotic and unorganized.

In other news, I attended an adoption conference in Oakland yesterday, and learned a lot more about attachment and strategies to promote attachment with kids who have been traumatized or gone through significant separations/caregiver transitions. A good amount of the workshop content was more relevant for older youth, but a lot of it was also applicable to babies and infants. A few takeaway gems:

  • Kids may be developmentally regressed and benefit from nurturing them in ways usually done with younger children, such as holding them and feeding them or rocking and singing to them. 
  • Parts language (parts of self)can be really helpful in communicating with children who are traumatized, reactive or have experienced a lot of shame. Instead of saying, "You hit your brother. We don't hit in this family,"  you could say, "You are angry. You are using your hitting part. It's OK to be angry but it's not okay to hit others. Do you think you can use your stopping part to stop hitting?"  Something like that. I think it would take some practice.
  • I really liked the idea of using a positive/negative/positive communication sandwich when a kid has done something you don't want them to do.  This might look like, " I love you very much (said in a neutral or kind voice),  and eating cookies before dinner is against the rules ( said with some sternness). And I still love you (said with love)." 
  • They talked about not using "natural consequences" in the moment until they're old enough and capable of understanding that logic. They suggested waiting several hours or even a day until they are deescalated – if they were escalated or really upset – then talking about how you hope they might do something to contribute to the person or to the family in a way that makes up for what they did.  I think this was one of the biggest lessons I took away and want to remember… The lesson or response to behaviors doesn't need to happen in the moment...you can still talk about the situation or try to teach them about it later on. 

I guess a lot of these are more relevant for kids three and over, but I still want to remember them. I also want to remember that even if I am placed with a baby or toddler, they have likely experienced significant loss and caregiver transitions. The teachings in the conference also validated my desire to be placed with children under two, as they emphasized how many brain connections are being made before two or three, and I hope to contribute to those connections. Also, one presenter mentioned that if a child was able to bond with any caregiver in the past, that suggests they are capable of bonding and attaching in general. This supports what the social worker advised in my training, as well.

3/18/2017

Researching and Regrouping

I don't know if I mentioned it on this blog, but my computer died a month or two ago. Since then, I've been using my iPad mini and iPhone to get by… They work fine for a lot of things but not so well for blogging and typing client notes.  Thank God for Siri or I don't think it would work at all.

Last Wednesday, the stress of working two jobs, commuting two to three hours a day, and looking for housing possibilities in Petaluma resulted in a small breakdown. Well, all those things plus not being able to sleep and taking a sleeping pill two nights in a row. I guess it could've been worse…my break down looked like arguing with one of our consultants at the nonprofit during a program meeting when he responded to my request for strategies to work more effectively with a very difficult client by saying, "You have to not take it personally, you have to remember the person has a brain injury, you have to not react when they swear," (all things I believe that I already do). He has responded in this unhelpful way before, which I think is because he manages his own frustrations by telling himself these things. Then my supervisor – who I normally get along wonderfully with - tried to talk to me about how I should've handled the situation differently, leading to me going back to my desk and breaking down in tears. Argh

Friday I felt much better and talked with her about it in a productive way, ending with us clearing the air and hugging, but I think that whole scenario is a warning flag that I'm not able to sustain this level of stress. I need to make sure I am  practicing better self-care through going to bed earlier, and, even though in the short term a move will be stressful in itself, it really nudges me in the direction of moving sooner rather than later.

On that front, I have looked at several places now, including houses, townhomes, and apartments.  My searching so far has helped clarify what I hope to find in a new place:

  • Located in Petaluma, within walking distance of downtown
  • Two bedroom home but don't care about the size
  • Accepts my dog and has an enclosed yard or patio where we could be outside, ideally with at least a small area of ground ( versus all concrete) for Zoey to do her business. 
  • Dishwasher and washer and dryer or washer/dryer hook-ups
  • Solid, relatively modern construction, especially in the kitchen and bathroom 
  • A functional bathtub that lends itself to bathing a small child
  • Rent between 1800 and 2300

I am finding places that fit most of the criteria, but it is challenging to find options that fit all of them.  I found a small house that would've worked pretty well. Ideally it would've been a little closer to downtown, but it was workable.  Unfortunately, I found it too late and other applications have been submitted previously, one of which he ended up accepting. A few places I've looked are just not well constructed or finished in a way that I would feel comfortable with when I am parenting a child.

I also looked at a couple of townhouses within a fairly large complex located an almost ideal distance from downtown. I liked the inside okay – pretty standard townhouse floor plan, with a nice enough kitchen, small dining area and living area downstairs and two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs.   The landscaping and common areas outside were not kept up super well. A lot of the ground was just dirt, versus ground cover or bushes, and I even saw one beer bottle laying on the ground. :-/  But apparently there are quite a few families living there, and the woman who manages the site was very friendly and nice. She had adopted through foster care herself and offered to help me get to know the area and local restaurants and recreation. Unfortunately, it only offers a concrete patio in the back. This place is my back up at this point. I'm continuing to look for a small house that would be a better fit, but I feel more secure knowing I can fall back on one of these townhouses if necessary.

My brother has been super helpful in talking things through with me and helped me realize a one bedroom apartment would not be functional for myself and a child. I was trying to imagine ways I could put up a screen or something and separate the bedroom into two spaces, but that wasn't realistic. The location was perfect and it was nice construction so I was trying to imagine how it could work.

Hopefully I will have some good news to report in my next post. Next week is spring break at the college, so I will have some extra time to search and catch up on sleep and me time. Yay

3/12/2017

Spring Hope

Spring has Sprung and the weather is beautiful here in Northern California, so that helps alleviate some of the stress. I just wrote my landlord a final proposal, which does fit his requirement of getting current within two months. Yesterday I went and looked at several new places in Marin County, close to where I now work. Some of them were totally low quality, however, and one even had freestanding wobbly particleboard closets in the bedrooms.

Another place was in a great location and had a nice deck with some shade from an old pine tree. But the inside was pretty old, had low-quality cabinets etc. and there was no dishwasher, which I think I will really want when I have a little one. The woman was really nice, so I took an application but I don't think I'm going to apply.

I found a few houses online that look really nice, but they are outside my price range. It's amazing what you can get for just $500 more. I was looking again this morning and did find a two bedroom townhouse that accepts pets and is within a few blocks of the downtown area where I want to live. I'm going to go see it tomorrow evening, fingers crossed. It felt meant to be because the manager said she had fostered and adopted children while living there. She said the complex is family-friendly and within walking distance of the school, which has an awesome reputation. It's almost within my price range (a third of my monthly salary), stretching just a little.

Thinking through what I've loved about where I live now and imagining myself living in some of the places I looked at yesterday, I realized how crucial it is to me to be in a place that is walkable to local restaurants and stores and has a downtown core. I was considering one place that is in what is a sprawling suburban area, adjacent to a smaller town that did have a cohesive, if pretty rugged and earthy, downtown. I liked the downtown area pretty well, but I would have needed to hop on the freeway to get there, even if it is just a few minutes away. And there was nothing in terms of stores and restaurants that were walking distance from the house. I envision feeling pretty isolated in a place like that, which is definitely not what I want when I become a single mom.

I would still ideally like to put off moving for at least two or three months, but if I need to move at the end of this month I want to be prepared. I will know a lot more about the likelihood of those possibilities by the end of next week. I continue to feel grateful that all the work I've put into my homestudy will not be lost if I move, and I that I could complete the final steps towards safety and physical home requirements once I was settled.

I will share more about work stuff in my next post, but I will say that my new job has gotten a little easier as I learn the ropes and get to know the students, and I like my counseling colleagues, as well as my supervisor.

3/09/2017

In response to comments…

Just a quick post to say thank you to those who wrote supportive, helpful comments on my last vulnerable share about financial struggles I'm having in this limbo I'm in after my housemate suddenly moved out and prior to receiving my first full paycheck from my new well-paying college job which will pay several thousand dollars a month, in addition to my nonprofit and self-employment income. They mean a lot.

I also want to say that the one long-winded, hurtful, holier-than-thou, and wholly unhelpful comment I received was most definitely unwelcome. To that person, I suggest that before you share a judgemental comment like that, please consider whether you know the person well and whether you have love in your heart for them. Then consider framing your judgment or anxiety in a way that helps them reflect versus a one page diatribe on why they are fucked up. Mkay?  And no, I don't want to get into a conversation with you – please do not comment again.