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.

3/05/2017

Spoke too soon

Well, I might have spoken too soon about that pulling the Winnebago back from the cliff thing. I really thought that once I started this new position – I was okay.  Now, I'm not so sure. Instead of depositing my rent check the normal way, my landlord decided to drive up to my credit union branch. I was short a little bit and depending on overdraft protection for checks, which of course didn't kick in when he went to the branch. Getting a flat tire the week before last didn't help things. When I took the car in, they said two additional tires needed replacement as well.  With the brutal commute I have, I just couldn't take the risk. My landlord is freaking out and wanting total payment immediately.

I see the light at the end of the tunnel on April 10, when I receive my first full paycheck from the new job. I'm talking with a potential new roommate this afternoon… I said in the ad it would just be for a few months. I also hope to get legal advice on Monday.  I reached out to my landlord to talk, once to explain the bank situation and once to ask to sit down with him and see if we might find something that works, but he's not responded. I am getting a small paycheck from the new job on March 10 and my nonprofit payment the 15th. I'm looking at other options to pay two months rent… If I do get a new roommate and she gives one month deposit that would go a long way.

Considering all possibilities, if I do have to move,  I found out the majority of my homestudy paper work would still be valid, she would just need to do a walk-through at the new place and ensure child safety measures in place. My new home also needs to be within one hour of their office, and the three places I'm considering – Petaluma, Larkspur, and San Rafael - are all within 50 miles. I really don't want an eviction on my record, however, and if I'm focused on paying my landlord with that first check, I won't have enough for a full deposit.

There are just some significant unknowns at this point… I'll check in again after my conversation with the potential tenant this afternoon and after I talk to the legal counsel on Monday. I feel foolish for buying that rug now. Although, realistically, $100 would not have made a bit of difference in this scenario.

As a sidenote, I have been having some difficulty picturing myself raising a child at this house. It's older, kind of drafty, I don't like the bathroom, and the two bedrooms are separated by the bathroom so not super close to hear a kid.  I think the child would be in my bedroom for at least the first few months to a year, but then the kids room almost seems extraneous. It seems like we would be hanging out in the front room where the TV is and there's room to play and lots of light.  I am really excited about decorating a space for a child, but the room that's here just doesn't seem like a great fit or location in the house. Maybe it would be different once I got curtains up, the rug laid out, decorations up etc. The  over an hour commute each way to work is also not child friendly.

Please send good thoughts that this situation unfolds in the best manner for all involved.

2/20/2017

Obsessions avec l'enfant

Ever since I was offered the assignment – which I'm looking forward to starting tomorrow– my mind keeps returning to preparing for a child. It's the only topic that holds my attention and feels exciting right now. The main topics of my current obsession are:

1. Crib bedding: Lots of cute styles out there, but Vintage Circus is not the easiest to find... I did put some gray, blue, and white sheets on my Target wish list to be purchased in March, including stars and elephant patterns. And here are three cute options I found on Etsy:

Cute combo pattern with elephants. But maybe too masculine?
Adorable vintage elephant riding a bicycle sheets.
Love this bed ruffle that I think will go well with vintage circus. But do I really need it? No


2. Prior to the above obsession, I was focused on a rug. The wood floor is not safe or comfortable for a little one and make the room look colder.  Initially, I wanted to get a round striped circus rug, but I decided it had too many colors in it and would clash with the artwork. I spent a lot of time looking on discount rug websites and Target's site. There was a massive sale on at rugs USA.com, so I ended up getting a large rug for around 100 bucks. My sister-in-law loved a zebra striped number, but it would've been several hundred dollars and was not on sale.  It is a little boring, but I think it will go well with the theme and got a lot of great customer reviews for the texture.  What do you think?

3.  There are several other items I've started to look at but am not getting serious about yet, such as a glider or chair for the room, a dresser and changing table or pad, and a highchair.  These are all items that can wait a while however. The main goal right now is to prepare for the final homestudy walk-through, which requires the room be placement ready, and pictures taken of the inside of the house for the family book, including the kids room.  Thus, my focus on getting the room put together right now.

4.  The final area of obsession is more psychological and social… I have been thinking a lot about the demands of being a mother, how my life will change, and what social connections would be fun and practical to develop once I have a child.  I have shared on this blog about meeting with local SMC's, and I attended another really great gathering a couple weeks ago. It was in San Francisco. My new Eastbay SMC friend and I carpooled over together and met a lot of friendly, welcoming, smart SF SMC women and their little kids. Since most of the kids were two or under, it was a great window on what I will be experiencing soon, hopefully.  Most of them were IVF kids, so most of them were boys, and there was lots of activity!

I was super excited to talk with two of the women who had adopted babies from the Marshall Islands. I totally fell in love with this one little baby, and immediately wanted to expand my adoption parameters to include Micronesian babies, especially since I know these two women now and could stay connected to a community in San Francisco for both my and my kid's benefit. It may be a moot point and only relevant to international adoptions. In any case, it was a great gathering, and I've been thinking about how my social circle will necessarily expand and change when I have a child. In addition to SMC connections, I can see spending a lot more time with my friend K and his wife who have a baby now. How did your social circle change after you had a child?

2/11/2017

Pulling Back from the Edge (just in time)

Big, big news... I got the assignment with SRJC in Petaluma!!! I have already started a little bit of training and will complete the core of training next Tuesday and Wednesday when I observe three different Counselors and hopefully learn a lot from each one. Then I officially start on the 21st.

Not only did I get the assignment, but I was given *significantly* more hours than I expected to get as an adjunct Counselor. I will be working Tuesday and Thursday 9-4:30pm and Wednesday and Friday from 9 - 2:30pm, for a total of *24 hours*! I expected 16 hours maximum, so this is a huge difference in monthly salary of over $1750. Gah! I had not actually calculated that cumulative number before. So, yeah, huge difference.

Plus, I am going to try and continue my 15 hours, for now, at the non-profit. I will work there all day Monday and 3.5 hours on Wednesday and Friday. Wish me luck. I am a little scared about maintaining my energy level with this schedule, but I think it is worth trying to make this big push to catch up financially and then create a decent savings cushion over the next few months before a child is placed with me.

Oh my goodness, the thought of not having quite so tight a budget feels so wonderful. My time will be super tight now, though...but my thought is that once a child is placed with me, I can drop or cut back on the non-profit hours. They have so far not been okay with me working from home - even though they said they would, I'm getting mixed messages - but maybe if push came to shove, they would say yes, at least for a while. If not, I may need to leave, but I am taking it one step at a time.

I have an anecdote to share that made me think... the other day at the non-profit, the new program coordinator and I were talking about this idea that she brought up in our staff meeting about taking some of the clients out for social "field trips," like to movies or dinner or coffee shops, etc. She said in a tone of amazement, "For our clients, this is their only social outlet - can you imagine?! They look forward to coming and these are their only friends!" Something like that. And I thought, well, hmm. It's not like I have a big social circle and lots of friends outside work. I get a lot of my connection right now from my work at the non-profit and it means a lot to me. So I guess I'm a lot like our clients! I didn't say this, but I thought it. I felt a little like a loser but then I also felt grateful and understood all the more why it would be sad for me to have to leave there right now.

So I'm glad I don't have to give that up right now and put all my eggs in the SRJC basket, which is somewhat unknown at this point. When I met with the Director of the program last week, she emphasized how it's a tight-knit community and everyone has each other's backs. Also, the students often have serious issues come up during the course of the day and there is a good amount of crisis management we do for them. This actually sounds a little like the non-profit, and the community aspect is very appealing to me.

The downside was that she said I may have to "chase students around" to meet with them until they get to know me because meeting with us is voluntary. Except for adding and dropping classes and I'm glad we at least have that leverage to connect with them! It sounds like I will be visiting classes and spending time in "study lab" where they work on homework each day to help them get to know me and vice versa.

I've definitely been scrambling to meet my landlord's deadline, including taking out a line of credit, but I think I've managed to pull the Winnebago of my life back from the cliff's edge. The next 6 to 8 weeks will be pretty tight until I get my first full paycheck from SRJC, but I'm feeling relief and hope. Looking forward to refocusing on completing the final steps of my home study.

2/02/2017

Everything Crossed

Please send good thoughts or prayers that I am given an assignment with my new college for 10 to 16 hours a week. I am doing some training with them starting February 7th, then they said they will see what hours are still needed. 16 hours is the maximum number of hours an adjunct counselor can work, and 10 to 16 hours will allow me to meet my financial obligations and stay in this house, when added to my nonprofit and business hours.

 It's crazy to think that one hour at the college pays 2 1/2 times what my nonprofit pays, so 10 hours at the college is like 25 to 30 at the nonprofit! But I still really love working at the nonprofit and the sense of family and support there. I feel they would be great Aunties and extended family for a little one.

My homestudy requirements are almost entirely met. Yesterday, I saw my doctor and checked the medical forms off the list. I still need to submit my income and expense form, but I am waiting to hear about the college hours first. Then another couple of safety latches in the kitchen and another home walk-through and that's about it.