Christmas Conversations and Hand-me-downs

Writing this from Oregon, sitting in my sister's beautiful new remodeled kitchen. I'm staying here and have the house to myself since my sister and her family spent Christmas with my bro-in-law's family in the Bay Area and are all in Lake Tahoe over New Year's.

This house was my mom and dad's house until my mom passed away a couple of years ago and my dad moved into a townhouse a few months later. I had a really good talk last night with my brother about some resentments I was carrying towards my sister and how she acquired the valuable belongings in this house, many of which I had grown up with and had an attachment too, as well. My brother said that after my mother died, my dad totally "checked out" and left my sister to deal with and go through the ENTIRE house, which was filled to the brim with my mom's stuff (mom was sort of a closet hoarder, i.e. she threw nothing away but it was neatly and tightly packed in every drawer, closet, and cupboard of the house). I do remember my sister having to do this but didn't fully understand how my dad checked out.

Additionally, I didn't understand that he basically both gave her this task and said that she could take over the furnishings and items in the house. My sister and bro-in-law had bought the house from him (at a very good price I imagine), and he said everything in it, other than the furniture, dishes, and other items he took with him, was theirs. And, even though it's hurtful and I would have liked him to think of me, these are his items to give.

My sister did ask me to go through a bunch of items last Christmas and take what I wanted, but these were items she didn't want and were to be given away shortly after. These were not valuable items, but some I took because they had sentimental value. There are a few items I see as I walk around the house this week that I would love to have. I think I would feel a bit better if I had at least received the one jewelry item that was clearly mine to have - a shoe charm that represented me on a necklace she wore. Each child was represented by one shoe. My sister said she put it down for me in the stuff I went through, but I don't remember her telling me that, didn't find it, and, also, why would you put a valuable jewelry item in with everything else? I'm really sad that it seems like it's lost for good.

But talking through the way everything unfolded with my brother lessens the resentment I feel. I know it was a big burden on my sister AND my dad basically was the person to make the call and he gave everything to her. There are some things in life that are beyond our control. My dad has held a grudge against me since I made a couple of poor financial decisions about 15 or 20 years ago (yes, the man knows how to carry a grudge), so that likely played a role.

This grudge was the other part of the conversation with my brother that was valuable to me. Talking through my anger around it helped me further sort through what "Dad's stuff" and what was "my stuff," and how I still need to "take care of my side of the street" with regard to financial mistakes I made that my dad experienced as painful betrayals. So, I renewed my intention to fix these mistakes as best I can now, in the present, and my brother agreed to remind me of this intention. I am also writing this intention here in the blog so you all can bear witness and I can be reminded when I re-read this post.

I did have some quality time with Dad on Christmas. After spending Christmas eve and morning at my brother's with his family and my Dad and his girlfriend/partner, Mary, my brother and family left to spend the rest of the day with my sis-in-law's family in Corvallis. I went to the house where I'm staying and had a bit of a rest and a shower, then spent the rest of the day and evening at Mary's house with her and my Dad. There were a couple of difficult moment where I felt a little hurt at my Dad's responses, but for the most part it was a good time. We had some nice dinner conversation and shared laughter, I got to know Mary better, and we all watched part of a movie before calling it a night.

Yesterday, I got to soak up some love with my Aunt, Uncle, and cousin and family, talking about my adoption plans and my aunt's and cousin's experience of her adoption, as well as eating comfort food and doing a little craft with the kids. Then, I went to my brother's and made and decorated gingerbread men with my four-year-old cousin, V. Her attention span was pretty short but she managed to do a little mixing, roll the dough a bit, and decorate two cookies. :)

Also, to end on a super exciting note for me, my brother gave me a bunch of clothes and baby/toddler items to take home! He has two girls, but I did find some gender neutral clothing and also took a few cute girls dresses and shirts in case I am placed with a girl. He also gave me: a baby bjorn and the other kind of baby carrier (can't remember the name but one faces in and one faces out); a stroller good for a baby under one-year (so may or may not be useful but it's a nice stroller in which the seat rotates to face you or face out); a bouncy swing that fastens to a door frame; a little rocking horse and a scooter I used when I was little; and a bunch of toys, including an activity table and electronic pull-toy and music maker. He also gave me some bottles and bottle equipment.

It was so fun going through the clothing and choosing items to take with me. Even though placement will not happen for several months at the earliest, I am loving the preparation process! And it will be great to show my progress to the social worker on January 10th.


Good News, Bad News, and a Silver Lining

I have some good news: I got the Santa Rosa adjunct counseling position! Felt so excited to get the call earlier today and am enjoying doing the onboarding paperwork to make things official. The bad news is that I was told not long after by the department chair that there were currently no assignments for me for spring semester. Here is her email below and I would love your perspective on how hopeful I should be that something might come up:

"Congratulations on getting into the counseling adjunct pool. I am sorry that we did not have an opportunity to meet during the interview process.

As of right now, we do not have an identified counseling assignment for the spring semester. However, I wanted to check in with you about your weekly availability should an assignment become available. I’d appreciate knowing this information as we move forward in determining our coverage needs."

What do you think? On the one hand, she says they do not have an identified counseling assignment. On the other hand, why would she say, "...should an assignment become available," and, "...as we move forward in determining our coverage needs." It seems like there must be a chance or why would she even bring it up? I am still hoping. 

I wrote back that I currently had self employment hours on Tuesday from 3-7pm and am working 15 hours at a non-profit, but that I have flexibility about when I work those hours. Please send good thoughts!

In other not-so-good news, my drive to Oregon has been delayed by a snow storm over the Siskyou mountains coming through tomorrow. I do not have a snow-friendly car, nor do I have (or want to wrestle with) snow chains. It looks like Saturday clears up, so my intention is to leave very early Saturday to get up there and be part of Christmas eve dinner. The silver lining is that my sister, brother-in-law, and oldest niece and nephew are driving down to see my bro-in-law's family here in Northern California, so I will see them and go to a nice dinner with everyone tomorrow evening. I would have been sad to have missed J and E.

I got my nieces and nephew toys/gifts but I made candles for the adults. I'm happy with how they turned out and even added different layers of color. I forgot to take pictures but will try and remember when they are unwrapped.

Off to bed now. Tomorrow will be about getting my expired license renewed, going to the store to get various beans for a Christmas eve veggie dish and a couple cookie ingredients, then see if I have time to make said cookies before the dinner tomorrow night. If not, I'll just make them in Oregon.

I also plan to look at and possibly buy a crib - white in color, in very good condition according to owner, and has good reviews (though is discontinued) - as I move towards making my house "placement ready." Yay!  I'm also planning to pick up a few items from my brother while in Oregon, though he gave the crib they had to their house cleaner who had a baby last year. Oh well. In my crib research, it seems they range in price from around 160 to 500, and this one is offered for 100 complete with mattress and cute bedding. And most now convert to a toddler bed, as does the one I'm seeing tomorrow, which is especially helpful since the child may be a newborn up to two-years.

Sending you all love and blessings for the holiday and New Year!


I Survived the Mucho Loco Week

My birthday yesterday was a fun and fairly mellow day, which is how I wanted it after such a c-r-a-z-y week. My co-workers did get me a cake and give me a nice key chain made by our clients.

The craziness started on Tuesday when, after seeing two clients in Oakland, I drove up to Albany to lead a career transition meet-up... which had only one attendee! Boo. So tired of meet-up bailouts, even though I do it myself. lol FOUR other people failed to show up; one of them was nice enough to change their response on the website. Double boo. But. It ended up being really worthwhile!

The one guy who showed up runs the one-stop career center in San Pablo (where I worked for several years at the community college) and graciously offered the space to me for workshops and career groups. He also used to work at the Concord one-stop, which is close to where I live and where I'm wanting more clients! I intend to follow up with him on both the SP workshop and Concord networking fronts. Even though we have some differences in our background and perspective and the conversation started a bit stilted, we warmed into a lively dialogue about our clients and career development philosophies, and knowing some of same people at the college, etc. Great introvert networking experience!

I returned home around 8:30pm and after a half hour or so of necessary down time, jumped into preparing for my first of two interviews the next morning. Went to bed around 1am, but had insomnia and probably got about four hours sleep before the wretched alarm went off. This first interview was the one with a *NINE* person interview panel, which was as nerve-wracking and intimidating as it sounds. Everyone was really quiet, too, and not very responsive, which made me all the more nervous. My answer to the key diversity question was not great, but overall I would say I did okay. Came back home for a couple of hours before heading out to work at the non-profit.

That evening, I tweaked my PP presentation for the second interview the next morning, reviewed interview responses - especially the one about diversity! - and got to bed around 1am again. This interview started a bit later (the first was at the godawful time of 7:45am) but it was in Santa Rosa so I theoretically had about an hour and quarter drive to get there. I awoke at the same early hour of 6:30am, at which time I might add, it is still dark outside, and getting about 5 hours of sleep. *As a side note, I admire and have compassion for those of you that get up at this time or earlier every day.

Despite the rocky start of getting there late due to torrential rains and initially going to the wrong location, this interview, as a whole, was the best it could have been. I liked and felt connected with the (reasonable number of) four interviewers, gave what I felt were strong answers to their questions and a good presentation. This latter job is the one that would require moving, at least eventually. It would be a part-time position, so initially I could commute a couple of days a week. But considering the non-profit job location, it would make sense that I re-locate long-term to a town in-between the two jobs, which would mean about a half hour drive to each. On the positive side, it's a nice area.

Part of the reason I would wait to re-locate on the latter job, is because of my adoption process in this county. I need to research whether I could re-locate when a child is placed with me but not yet officially adopted. This could happen within a few months.

Regarding this adoption process, I took another step forward this week when I met with the adoption social worker Thursday afternoon. We had the house cleaned Monday, and I tidied everything up prior to her arrival. She was quite young! Like maybe 24 or 25? We first went through signing a lot of paperwork in rapid-fire fashion, before she began asking me questions about myself and what I was hoping for in this process.

Early on in the question-asking, I said I hoped for two-years-old and under but was a little torn and might want to consider a little older. At this point, she asked me, "Have you thought of other options?" Head slap, huge groan!!! Um, no, I'm just coming to you guys out of the blue, completely unaware and definitely not having gone through over 10 years off and on of trying to have a biological child, and three adoption training programs in three different counties, not to mention many blogs read, conversations had, books and articles consumed, experts consulted, etc., etc.! Do you agree that's a pretty harsh and clueless question, or am I just overly sensitive? It frustrated me but also hurt my feelings, as I am excited about moving forward and was thinking that she was there to help me and be "on my side."

She also followed up the question with a couple disparaging, negative comments about how there aren't nearly as many babies/infants that come up needing homes. I of course know this already as they stress it in every training and you hear it anyway, just through the media. I feel terrible about the older youth that get stuck in the system and have a harder time finding their forever families. It totally sucks. And, I am who I am and am where I am in life. I've worked with older youth for many years as part of my career. I love them, but I long for the experience of motherhood and am especially longing for the baby/infant experience and supporting them through the developmental milestones. As I think I've shared, part of my motivation for adopting through foster care is financial, but it is also that I want to provide a loving, safe home for a little one who was dealt a very harsh hand in life. So yes, ma'am, I have thought of other options. Grrr

Sorry for the rant. The interview did dramatically improve from there, after I said that her question kind of hurt my feelings and disrupted the process of beginning to get to know each other and work together. She apologized. I know her perspective is very different than mine. In any case, she then focused and began asking me the questions I thought she would ask about my strengths and interests, my neighborhood, my goals for next year, what ethnicity and gender in a child that I was open to, etc. She didn't get into asking about disabilities or special needs, but she gave me quite a bit of additional paperwork to complete, including a questionnaire with those types of questions.

Oh, and before she left, she had me complete this sad and somewhat disturbing questionnaire about what I or those in my family had experienced in terms of various forms of abuse, pornography, use of firearms, drugs, and more. It was a bit strange to answer, "I don't know" for some of them regarding family, and I felt a bit "hardened" answering yes to several drugs (from my college days in the late '80s lol). She said that having experienced these things would not rule someone out but instead will guide our conversation next time when we talk more deeply about my history.

We scheduled our next meeting for January 10th, which gives me time to try and make some fixes (lock box for medications, all cleaners stored in a place that's inaccessible to children, outlets and cords protected - how do you secure cords? - and any less than child-friendly items removed from the yard, and other requirements) and complete the homework. I realized that I should see what items my siblings in Oregon might have to pass along when I have my car to carry them back. Feeling excited about making preparations and things feeling more and more real!

That's my crazy week! Today, I'm going to have a late birthday celebration by meeting a couple of friends to check out a local holiday street fair and have drinks. It's a beautiful day, after getting tons of rain, so it should be a fun time. Then holiday cookie and candle making this evening and tomorrow.


Frenetic! and Festive

Next week is one of those weeks where multiple significant and stressful events pile on in succession... I'm not feeling too overwhelmed, but looking ahead resignedly and starting to gear up - while at the same time holding on to my holiday cheer.

After my post about wanting to settle in for a while and not continue to put effort into applying and interviewing for better-paying jobs, two colleges simultaneously managed to motivate themselves at the very last minute to schedule interviews before the holidays. So, I find myself committed to two early morning interviews on Wednesday and Thursday next week; one way up in Santa Rosa and the second one in Napa.

I am trying to feel hopeful and excited about these opportunities but honestly, I just don't. I do not even want to prepare, though I'm sure I will make myself, if not this weekend, then Tuesday, spend some time doing so. They are both, of course, stupid panel interviews, and one has NINE people attending. Ridiculous. How many people does it take to make a decision? Apparently nine.

If I had to choose, I would choose Napa, as it is only a half hour drive and would not require me to move. The Napa job, however, would require me to quit my non-profit job and dramatically scale back on my business for now. The Santa Rosa job is a part-time position, so theoretically, I could work two days there, two days at the non-profit, and a few hours in my business and make a good living - but both the non-profit and SR jobs are located such that I would need to move, likely to Petaluma, a town between the two locations. Am I really willing to move when I have so many good things happening where I live now, including my adoption process?

My finances are such that I can't, in good conscience, cancel either of these interviews, so I guess I will just take it a step at a time. But excited about them? No.

Additionally, I am committed to leading my career transition meet-up Tuesday evening, which has quite a few sign-ups (potential clients) this month. And, Thursday afternoon I'm scheduled for my first home interview with the adoption social worker. I'm looking forward to this but definitely have a few nerves about it. In a generous act that relieves some stress, however, my housemate gave me an early Christmas present and hired a cleaner to come the Monday before, so the house will be polished up for her visit!

Sounds like enough for the week, right? Nope, my birthday is Friday! No big plans, though, maybe a drink with friends. Despite the stress and busyness this week, I refuse to lose my holiday spirit. I attended our small and joyful staff holiday party last night for the non-profit, made peppermint cookie dough last week, have been enjoying the Christmas lights going up, and we plan to decorate a tree this weekend. ho ho ho!