My new love - Part 3

Before resuming the story of my new love, RC, and me, I have to say that I am so excited that we have reached December! I am loving the T.J.'s peppermint bark and super excited to decorate a Christmas  tree on my birthday week and travel up to Oregon for Christmas. Hello Holidays!

Back to the story...So during RC's visit, we were already thinking ahead to when we would see each other again, and in passing, I mentioned Thanksgiving and my birthday on December 16th. We also had a conversation over the phone about what makes a long-distance relationship sustainable, and one of the main aspects we both mentioned was seeing each other regularly. The last day before he left, we talked a little more about the idea of Thanksgiving. He seemed less than enthusiastic, but as we continued to discuss it, I realized it was because he was worried about trying to put together a full traditional Thanksgiving meal.

One thing I haven't mentioned yet is that he has a thyroid disorder and is on quite a few food restrictions: no dairy, no gluten, etc. It's a little frustrating sometimes, but usually there is something on the menu he can order or adapt to work for him. Once we agreed we would have a "non-traditional" meal, however, I think he relaxed. He definitely wanted me to come see him, and we both were excited as we made plans and the time grew closer.

After I got over the hurdle of doing laundry, packing, etc. and got on the road with my co-pilot, Zoey, it took a little over four hours to get to his house. Arriving and getting settled was the worst part of the trip (I'm noticing a pattern here with me - I think I have anxiety during these kind of transitions). He was finishing cleaning the bathroom when I arrived (!) so was all sweaty and grimy when I arrived. He came out to the car and tried to kiss me through the window - back up, sweaty boy! lol Also, his apartment was very underwhelming. He does know this. He moved there under pressure to find something quickly and considered it "temporary," though he's now been there for two-and-a-half years. It's old with a capital O and run-down looking.  The carpet, floors, and fixtures are worn and unattractive. It has an unpleasant smell sometimes in the kitchen and bathroom because he said the plumbing is really old or something. Yeah, it's not good. But what was I going to do? I was a guest and had to make the best of it, so I did. The two dozen roses he gave me did help a little!

Later, after I arrived home, I had feelings come up about it that I had pushed down while I was there, so I talked to him about it. Though it wasn't the most comfortable conversation, he listened and took it in, and then did some self-reflection about why he had settled for a "sub-standard" (his word) home environment for so long. It was a relief for me to express my feelings about it, as well as my thoughts that it didn't fit him or his level of consciousness, so to speak. I am clear within myself that I would be reluctant to visit him again in that place, though I might, and would definitely not ever live there.

Anyway, moving on, the activities and time we spent during my visit were a little affected by the environment but not too much. I arrived on Thanksgiving, so after getting settled, we had a glass of wine and made dinner. It was delicious! He cooked a thick piece of  salmon to perfection and made delicious mashed sweet potatoes with ghee (clarified butter). I prepared and roasted some brussel sprouts, and we had gourmet chocolate for dessert. Yum! We watched the movie, "Pets," which was cute, while cuddling and giving each other massage, which seems to be becoming one of our things.

The second day, we went out and walked around downtown Paso Robles, a nearby  town, walked through a community craft/art fair that was happening in the town square, and visited a couple of interesting art galleries. When we got back to his house, we had a really deep and meaningful talk that meant the world to me. I shared that I was afraid that my "issues" that come up at times might sabotage our relationship, and he assured me that he was "not going anywhere" and wanted to see where things go with us. It reminded me of the book, "Motherless Daughters," which talks about how someone can come along who is willing to stick it out and get through the triggers that come up around intimacy for women who have lost their mothers. I thought it was interesting the section of that book popped up in my mind.

We sort of "partied" one of the days I was there, but in a somewhat conscious way. We made plans for meaningful activities to do together while we were "feeling good" and did them all, I think. We played a lot of music and made a soundtrack for ourselves. We read a relationship book we had picked up the day before in town and discussed a ritual that would mark our commitment to one another. One ritual, changing our FB status, we completed that evening, and another ritual, getting corresponding tattoos, we may do in the near future. That's definitely a big commitment. A lot of the evening, we sat on the couch drinking red wine and talking and asking each other questions. :)

The next day, we were feeling a little tired but not too bad and went out to a fun brunch. He was being a little "clingy" about me leaving later, but it was cute. After brunch, we came back to the house and took a nap and made love a last time. We are learning more about each other in that area. It's great to experience pleasure, and I think it's an important part of a relationship to share with someone; one that my last relationship did not consistently include. It definitely didn't include all the affection, cuddling, and massage that RC and I share.

Another significant aspect of the trip I want to mention is the interactions of our two beloved pets: his kitty cat, Calvin, and my girl, Zoey. Their initial meeting did not at all go as planned. RC thought that Calvin would be shy and go hide somewhere. Nope. Calvin was very curious! He wanted to see who was this strange creature invading his territory and running around with all this energy? The whole time we were there, he kept an eye on Zoey, wanting to know where she was and what she was doing. A few times, they did come together for a butt sniff or to touch noses, but for the most part, if Zoey tried to come right up to Calvin, he would make a swatting motion with one paw (though I don't think he ever actually scratched her) and she would retreat yelping as though she had been mortally wounded. lol

Whenever I or RC would try and pay attention to Calvin, Zoey would come up and try and be part of the action. Does anyone know what that is? Is she jealous or curious or feeling protective or? It was a little frustrating because I wanted to get to know Calvin better, but for the most part, we were pleased with this first introduction, and they did seem more relaxed as the weekend progressed. We were even able to leave them alone together and they were fine. We noticed they tended to pick up  on our energy and if we were super relaxed, like doing a guided meditation together or just relaxed and talking, they would follow suit and plop down all chilled out. lol

We have had some great and progressively deepening conversations since Thanksgiving weekend, and yesterday, we finalized our hotel booking for Christmas in Eugene! Yep, he's coming with me to Oregon, and I'm looking forward to it. Calvin will have a cat sitter but Zoey is coming with us. He's driving up to my house on my birthday, and we are going to decorate a little Christmas tree and drive around looking at lights, two of my favorite activities. Then, we will drive up to Oregon together on Thursday morning before Christmas and return the following Thursday. We will spend about two straight weeks together - including several days with family - which I'm thinking will be a big leap forward for our relationship, assuming we survive. ha

Thus ends my three-part "new love" series, but I will post again for my birthday and our holiday travels. Wishing you all a festive and fun start to the holiday season!


My new love interest - Part 2

Now, I have a "Part 3" to add, so I am behind on blogging! To finish my thoughts on RC's visit to see me...After we scattered the ashes, we came back to my house and rested then had a really nice dinner - I had sautéed scallops, yum! -  and came back to relax, share some massage and watch television.

I'm so glad he stayed the extra day because our conversation and connection deepened through the activities of the last day in which we had brunch and drove around to different places where his parents had lived back in the day. I enjoyed the car ride, listening to music and having meaningful conversation about past relationship patterns. I shared about how I can become anxious at times and generously share this anxiety lol by becoming critical or almost picking a fight. He shared more about his first wife who had a pattern of always having some kind of physical ailment that required him to act as a caregiver.

The last night, we slept in the same bed, which was nice. I feel physically comfortable with him and very much enjoy cuddling with him, which my ex, S, and I were never able to do well for various reasons. It's like I'm rediscovering physical closeness and cuddling; I missed it!

The next day, I had to get ready for work but had coffee with him and shared sweet little conversations throughout the morning. As a side note, he really likes Zoey and Zoey loves him, which makes our time easier and more comfortable, as well.

From when he left until before Thanksgiving, we shared several texts throughout the day filled with lovey dovey language and expressions of romance and care. He has consistently written a long, thoughtful text in the morning and in the evening, before bed. I love receiving these! And appreciate his way with words and openness in expressing his feelings. Our texts also end with lots of emoji hearts and kisses - it's that mushy stuff that's annoying unless you're the one doing it. lol 

We also had several authentic conversations, helping to know each other more deeply. I shared that I wanted his full attention at times when I am sharing something meaningful, versus how sometimes he multi-tasks, talking with me and cooking or doing dishes, etc., and that I like questions to help me express myself more fully. When we have had tension come up a couple times or one of us feels a little triggered, we have been able to share vulnerably and talk through it. So important and welcome to me!

I'll end Part 2 there, and return later for Part 3...


My new love interest - Part 1

As you can probably tell by the title, my time with the old friend went even better than imagined.  After a bit of a bumpy start when he first arrived, brought his stuff in, and got settled, we progressed into feeling quite comfortable with one another.

The first afternoon/evening, we got something to eat, then I left him to relax as I headed off to my chalice circle group. When I returned, we chatted and caught up then headed to bed. He brought a queen-sized air mattress which we installed in the nursery after moving the changing table to my room to make space. I came in and cuddled some with him in the morning - initially felt a little funny as we had been friends for years when I lived on the central coast but then it was really nice.

Saturday we made some breakfast then walked downtown to explore. It was Veterans Day so we ended up catching the parade from a window table at a corner restaurant, while we grabbed a snack and a drink. I got to see a side of him that is respectfully patriotic and appreciative of our veterans, which I found attractive. He spent several years in the navy so has some experience with the military. We came home and rested for a while.

Somewhere around this time, we talked about it and he decided to stay another day and drive home Monday. Also somewhere around this time we made love. I told him beforehand that if we do become intimate, he can't move to Austin and forget about me! To explain, he has three sons and several young grandkids who live in Austin and, before we reconnected, he was basically planning to move down there and live on the property of one of his sons. But interestingly he found out while he was here that the zoning did not come through as they'd hoped, so there is an indefinite delay...

When we were talking about him coming up to visit, he shared that his parents actually lived in Petaluma for the latter part of their lives. His father passed, then his mother, and since they loved it here, he wanted to spread their ashes in this area (along with his older sister who had passed away a few years ago, as well). He said he would like to have me with him, and I agreed. So on later on Saturday, we drove out to scatter the ashes at a local nature area. Well, not all the ashes because he had scattered some at another location. Anyway, it was a little weird, but also a meaningful experience to share.

To be continued...


Veteran's Day Weekend 2017

Start of the three-day weekend. Sending gratitude to all the veterans out there.

I had a positive week, but today I had conversations with my department head and coworkers that kind of stressed me out. Now my neighbors are playing music and talking loudly...it's only 9:30pm, and I know it's their prerogative, but I sure wish the walls were more insulated!

Anyway, earlier my department head said that I will be getting the same assignment for spring, so that's good, but she said after that the college counseling department will not be providing counselors to my program. I had heard rumblings of this before and my program director said that counselors are necessary to run the program and they would find a way to pay for them. But what does that mean exactly? I started thinking more about possibilities and questions came up: Would we be paid at the same rate? Will the employment criteria be the same (i.e. if the high school district pays, would we need a high school counseling credential)?

I know a lot can happen in six months, but I appreciated my job in this program as the solid ground I could depend upon. If college counseling and teaching hours opened up at my campus or the other campus 20 minutes north, I might decide I prefer to work those hours and let go of the extra stress and complexity of dealing with a high school program. On the other hand, I have come to deeply care about my students and feel close to my colleagues. So I do enjoy it much more than when I started in February. I need to keep calm and find out more information before I jump to the alarmed phase. I will talk to my director when she returns from vacation next week.

My friend is coming tomorrow afternoon and I'm both excited and curious to see how I will feel spending time with him. The house is cleaned, and Zoey has had a bath. I look forward to walking around downtown, going out for meals, and helping him spread his parents ashes - that will be meaningful. I hope we get nice weather for that activity on Saturday. Even more so, I hope the winds of passion fuel a fire between us. lol


Halloween-time Happenings

My new neighbors are SO LOUD. Argh, I guess this is my new reality. The man speaks incessantly and is especially loud. Two thoughts at the moment… I will likely make greater use of headphones and YouTube meditation/relaxation channels while I work, and when I'm placed with an infant and they are wailing or yelling at all hours, I will not feel guilty. My previous neighbors were young and relatively quiet, and I was a little worried when I thought about the difficult adjustment to infant/toddler noise.

In other news, I went on a date Wednesday night with a guy about my age who I met online. I had a good time, even though he talked quite a lot for a professed introvert. We had dinner, then went on a pleasant walk around the local neighborhood. We did end up kissing and holding hands, which was nice. At the end, we talked about seeing each other again, but now I'm having doubts. He's fit, but not really my type physically. I'm pretty solid for a woman, and carry a few extra pounds. I prefer a guy to be bigger and bulkier than me. He's cute but I'm not sure if there's enough chemistry there, though I did feel attraction on our walk.

A definite plus is that he seems to be, not just open, but positive about the idea of adoption and being in a parental role again (he has a 22-year-old son in college). Oh, and he "vapes;" isn't that weird?  Do any of you know people who do that? I guess it's healthier than smoking and doesn't have the smell, but it's still an addiction and not awesome to be around.

As far as I know, my friend from the central coast is still coming next weekend, as well. I haven't heard from him at all, which makes me wonder if he's positive he wants to come up. I think I'll give him a call in a little while.

No big Halloween plans. I may wear some sort of minor costume on the actual holiday. I need to find out when is the official trick-or-treat night around here so I can have some candy available. I do love to see kids costumes. It's strange thinking back to the last two Halloweens...The last one dressing up and watching a movie while handing out candy with my roommate, and the one before doing the same thing but with S. I'm pretty sure this year Zoey and I will be solo.


A Visitor

I'm writing a short post before I need to get ready for church. Looking forward to our small group support circles starting next week, which will add to my sense of local connection.

I also have some interesting news about a past connection coming to visit… When I lived on the Central Coast, I had a good friend, RC, who I met through a dance community. He lived not too far from me, and we would carpool to dance, attend community events, and sometimes get together for dinner or hiking.  When we first met, he was interested in possibly dating, but I was focused on someone else at the time. After that, it seemed like he usually had a girlfriend, and my efforts at ttc'ing also were perhaps a barrier.  

I do remember at one point talking with him about being my donor… He previously had a vasectomy though, so that would have been, not impossible, but, too complicated. We were not super close best friends, but good friends, and I remember he helped me pack up and transfer things to storage before moving to the Bay Area. We have been Facebook friends and talked here and there over the last several years, but hadn't talked for probably a couple years at this point. 

Then, the other night, I had this, well, fairly tame but none-the-less erotic dream about him. In the rosy afterglow lol, I felt compelled to reach out to him and see how he was doing. Interestingly, he said he had just been thinking of me, as well. We had a good catching up phone call, and we decided we would like to see each other. So, long story short, it looks like he's coming to visit weekend after next! 

I'm not holding much expectation, but it's something fun to look forward to and, at the least, it will serve as a catalyst to get my house in order after this period of neglect. More details to come later...


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.


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.


Last Home Study Visit - Check!

The homestudy social worker came for her final visit this last Thursday…

I felt surprisingly nervous, but also excited. There was a flurry of activity and errands to run in the weeks leading up to her visit, including:

  • Getting the right safety latches, which took a couple of tries, since my complex does not allow drilling into any part of the cabinets. 
  • Procuring, then cleaning and setting up the crib and changing table.
  • Hanging a mirror and two art pieces in the nursery room, plus finally hanging the last of my art in the rest of the house, including a beautiful but heavy mirror I inherited from my grandparents. 
  • Buying a gray chevron crib sheet, that happens to match the gray chevron changing pad cover that came with the changing table. 😊
  • Getting Zoey a new dog bed and throwing out her raggedy one.
  • Unpacking the clothes and toys passed down to me from my brother and sister-in-law. It was so fun to hang the clothes on little hangers and put them away in drawers!

As I went through all these preparations,  I found myself imagining more and more my life with a little one; what I would be doing at various times that would be dramatically different than what I normally do. For example, playing on the floor with a little one instead of watching TV or going on a walk through the neighborhood after work with the stroller versus just Zoey.

At one point, I was standing in the nursery with Zoey, asking her if she was ready for a baby to be here, saying, "Pretty soon, there's going to be a little one here crying,"  then making crying noises. Lol  I guess I'm trying to get both Zoey and myself ready for a huge change.

The social worker visit itself was surprisingly anti-climactic. My as-mentioned very young social worker was friendly but down to business. I offered cookies and fresh strawberries, along with mineral water. I think she ate one, maybe two, strawberries, as she went down her required question list fairly rapid fire. She did seem a bit more enthusiastic about the nursery, and appeared to really like the hot air balloon wall decals I put up.

She said everything was fine, except I did forget a couple of safety items: first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and carbon monoxide detector. What would cause high levels of carbon monoxide, anyway? No idea… But I ordered these items on Amazon, and once they arrive I can send a picture to her and complete the checklist. Then, it will be likely around three weeks of writing up the report, sharing it with me in the supervisor, making edits, then issuing the certificate. Whew! I'm on the homestretch, though!


Next Step Considerations

After getting a white crib -  with all the pieces this time - and a nice, solid white changing table with drawers off of Next Door (I love that website!), I've pretty much got the nursery together now! I need to find a small, not too pricey glider and pick up some small clothes hangers.

In the rest of the house, I still need to get safety latches on a couple of the drawers and cupboards in the kitchen. I did get a safety mechanism for the front door knob and mats for the front door, kitchen, and bathroom. My bathroom is ridiculously small, y'all. It's sort of fitting because I'm definitely not a 'spend a lot of time in the bathroom' kind of a person. I do all my getting ready in my bedroom.  But I wonder how that will be with a kid… I guess I can make adjustments or add storage items later.

After the drama with the agency I'm working with, as well as word-of-mouth warnings I've been reading from friends and online, I admit I'm feeling some worry about whether I'll actually get placed with an infant within a few months. I'm thinking about whether I can get comfortable with the idea that I may need to foster a child or two before I connect with my forever child. There is so much potential loss associated with that idea, but also the opportunity to be a loving and stable influence on other children going through a traumatic time.

Once my homestudy is complete, I plan to consider all my options – both new options and those I've considered before. Summer seems like a good time to do that. My thought is that all I can do is keep taking the next step and making the best decisions I can.

Final social worker visit is a week from tomorrow – wish me luck!


Home Study Drama

My spring semester at the college ended yesterday. Our program graduation on Thursday went well,  and the speeches the graduates made were extraordinary and moving. After some stress around budget changes, we were given the same continuing hours for fall, and it feels great to have that continuity. Additionally, I was given a few hours a week during the last half of June and all of July before we have a full week of retreat and orientation when fall semester ramps up at the beginning of August. With these hours, the court disbursement I finally received last week, the non-profit work, and my career counseling business, it looks like it may be a little tight this summer but OK.

In this present moment, I'm looking around my house and recognizing there is a lot of cleaning to be done. I  feel jealous when I hear people being struck with spring or summer cleaning fever. I must have a strong immune system when it comes to that illness. haha  I do get motivated by outside catalysts, and  yesterday I scheduled a big one –  my final social worker visit on June 15th. I intend to make a list today of all the actions I need to take and what I need to get in place before she comes.

I had a scare last week when my social worker sent a lengthy email about additional policy changes which shift their demographic to a higher number of older and special needs children. I understood this was always the case, but I guess they are expanding relative searches for infants, among other things. She then asked me to expand my per age and or special-needs parameters. I wrote back that I was not comfortable with that and reminded her of previous in-depth conversations we had last year about it. She wrote back that in that case they would be unable to work with me. What? I was freaked out, needless to say, after jumping through inumerable hoops and literally being on the threshold of completing the homestudy. I wasn't sure she knew I've been communicating the past two months with their agency coordinator and completing all the replacement forms based on my move. So I sent those to both her and her supervisor and also left a voicemail with the supervisor Friday late afternoon.

And in my worried state, I also started doing some research with the county I live in now to see which parts of the homestudy might transfer. I will say I really liked the two women I spoke with in this county, but they needed to do further research about it...and regardless, I would need to redo the intensive interviewing process. I was clear I wanted to complete the homestudy with my current agency, since I'm so close, then consider options about how to move forward. Once completed, the homestudy can travel with me to other counties, etc.

So, long story short, I finally heard back from the supervisor on Wednesday, and she said there was a miscommunication and she did not mean they wouldn't work with me. She just wanted to stress the policy changes and likely longer timeline for placement with an infant. I said I understood but still wanted to complete the homestudy, which she was fine with, thank God. I think my social worker may have expressed things more strongly than she was supposed to. In any case, I'm super relieved!

No big plans this weekend, but I'm looking forward to attending the new church I found tomorrow and hiking with a friend on Monday. I hope you have a fun and relaxing holiday weekend!


Family Frustrations

Side note: I'm super ready for a new laptop; typing in an iPad mini is for the birds...

 I'm feeling a little angry today about family dynamics. Trying to remember that it's not about me and it's not really something I can control, but I still feel some sadness and longing for things to be different.  After my mom died a couple of years ago, The rest of my family went to Lake Tahoe that next summer and scattered her ashes into the lake, which was a special place for her.  Prior to her passing, as you might remember from reading this blog, it was a several-year tradition for us to all go to Tahoe together as a family over the Fourth of July.  One trip there with S was particularly traumatic, but that's another story.

In any case, I just assumed that we would continue this tradition as a family going forward, but last year I received a rude awakening that my brother was going to Tahoe at a different time that summer and my sister wanted to be there with her immediate family only, and some close friends. Maybe if I had a partner and child or children, I would also enjoy going there sometimes by ourselves (this is a separate issue of feeling like a lower-class family member because I'm single), but I think I would still value and support us all being there together over the fourth. I made it known last year that I was disappointed and in future years really wanted us all to spend this time there together.

 Which brings me to this year... A month or so ago I talk to my brother and he told me that he and his family were planning to go at a different time and not be there for the Fourth. Argh!  I was frustrated and upset and let him know that I was super disappointed. I asked him to please consider my wishes on this and said I thought that the memories we create there would be really significant and important going forward in our lives. He seemed a little chagrined and agreed to consider this.

Then, recently I messaged with my Dad about the Fourth, and he said he and his partner, Mary, are planning to go early and leave on the third, and that my sister wanted to be there with her immediate family alone over the holiday. WTF!  A big part of the experience is the freaking holiday! Going out on the boat to watch the fireworks, hanging out on the dock and going to get drinks, etc. We can do a lot of these activities prior to the fourth I guess but part of the fun is preparing for the holiday and going out on the boat. To me, this significantly changes the experience.

 I feel like I'm the only one that cares about making this meaningful, but also that I am the one who's feelings and opinions are least valued.  I guess part of the equation is me living in California and the rest of my family living up in Eugene and having just more time together and casual conversations about it in the course of their lives.  But I'm really tired of getting blindsided by, and not included in, these decisions.

 I did message with my brother this morning and have plans to talk to him this afternoon, and he said they might be moving their plans around so they could come to Tahoe on the Fourth. This is super exciting news, but I hope we then can actually stay for the holiday. I left a voicemail for my sister expressing these hopes. If you were me, how would you feel, and how would you try to mediate the situation? I'm not sure it's worth creating a huge issue with my sister, but I resent her being the favorite and getting more say in the matter.

 To end on a positive note, I completed my child/infant CPR training yesterday! It was actually quite informative and helpful. Almost done with my homestudy replacement forms and plan to get the social worker visit on the calendar soon, maybe by next weekend.


Lots happening and lots to do

I participated in my first Petaluma community event yesterday, which is called Butter and Eggs Day, in reference to Petaluma's farming roots.There was a parade and I rode on the decorated hay wagon truck as part of my college's entry. There were staff with their kids, as well as students mostly dressed in graduation caps and gowns. Everybody in Petaluma and many beyond Petaluma came out for the event and I had a great time. I got to know one of my students a little better who was riding next to me, and on the other side was my supervisor and her two young boys who were super cute and involved. I bought a small bucket of freshly cooked fried chicken (I shared!) to start the event off, then later got snowcones with my supervisor and her kids. Yum!

 As this event implies, I'm feeling more comfortable in my newer job and have an increased sense of competence and belonging. The bad news there is that there is current budgetary uncertainty for the summer, so I'm not sure what if any hours I'll get for June and July. Fingers crossed.

I have three pieces of good news to report, however: First, after being called in for an interview at the College of Marin – which is next-door to my nonprofit in Larkspur, about 30 minutes from my new home – I received the thrilling call that I was hired as an adjunct counselor! I don't know whether I'll have summer or fall hours yet, but it's wonderful to not just depend on one college for counseling hours. Also, the College of Marin is smaller and seems like a fun department, as well as having handy proximity to my nonprofit. Oh, and I can have eight more hours a week at the nonprofit this summer if I want… Of course they pay considerably less.

Second, I landed a new (phone) client for 1000 bucks! This gets me partway there to covering less hours or time off in summer. I also changed my Meetup group location to Petaluma and plan to have a Meetup sometime in the next month, in hopes of landing another client or two. There is reasonably-priced office space to rent here, too, like I was doing previously.

Third, my townhome complex manager, after I assertively reminded her of her promise, was able to schedule my washer/dryer enclosure to be built next week. Woo hoo! The weather has turned nice and sunny finally, but  I was still worried about my washer and dryer being out in the elements. 

In addition to landing summer work, my plate is chock-full of to-do's, it seems. Feel free to skip this next action step section, but I find it helpful to list intended actions on my blog to reference and, in a way, hold me accountable. My current to-do's or action steps:

Adoption action steps 
  1. Research child care in Petaluma
  2. Put together crib and hang decals/art on the wall
  3. Purchase a changing table or use the table I have with a changing pad
  4. Find a small children's dresser in white or red
  5. Complete CPR class Second Saturday in May 
  6. Fill out replacement forms for Homestudy
  7. Make a visitation appointment with the social worker for end of May
  8. Prior to the appointment, make sure safety latches on necessary drawers and cabinets and medicine lockbox is working  
Home actions. Except for unpacking, which I'd like to finish up in the next week or two, none of these have a set timeline 
  1. Finish unpacking few boxes downstairs
  2. Unpack bags and suitcases in my room
  3. Hang art
  4. Buy bathroom rug, towel bar, and hooks for bathroom and bedroom
  5. Re-finish blue end tables or paint myself - new handles
  6. Get a vanity table and chair for bedroom
  7. New mattress for me
  8. Buy new dog bed for Zoey

Per last post, actions to get involved in meaningful activities locally: 
  1. Start going to farmers market Saturday afternoons
  2. Attend swing dance workshop and dance in May
  3. Try out a new church every first Sunday of the month until find one that clicks
  4. Attend upcoming local activism fair/tabling event -  contact and attend meeting for local political organization or closest transition town group


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.


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.


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:

  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. 
  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. 


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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?